Partnering with Irish company Aerogen for over 15 years has allowed global Medtech giant Medtronic to keep its ventilator platform in front of the competition with the most innovative aerosol drug delivery technology on the market.
When multinational Medtech company Medtronic launched its 840 ventilation system in 1998, it had intentionally removed the ability to power pneumatic nebulisers. The assumption was that users would simply migrate over into using electronic nebulisers. However, once they started marketing the product, it found this wasn’t necessarily the case.
“This made us look at the alternatives. We decided the best approach was to get together with another company to create something that could be used seamlessly with the 840 ventilation system to make up for the fact that we didn’t offer the pneumatic nebuliser drive capability anymore,” explains Dave Hyde, Principal Clinical Affairs Specialist at Medtronic in California.
The company Medtronic chose was Aerogen, and their teams worked together to refine and develop the Irish company’s EasyNib solution to work in a compatible fashion with the 840 ventilation system as an add-on device. A lot of work was possible remotely, but Aerogen teams prioritised visiting Medtronic offices and sat side by side with its engineering teams to customise the solution.
“The problem with pneumatic nebulisers is that the size of the particles generated is not very uniform, which means they don’t provide good delivery of medication to where it is needed in small and constricted air waves,” says Hyde.
In contrast, Aerogen’s proprietary vibrating mesh technology turns liquid medication into a fine particle mist, gently and effectively delivering drugs to the lungs of critically ill patients. In practical terms, the use of Aerogen’s products reduces the length of time a patient needs to be on a ventilator. This means they recover faster and have a shorter stay in the hospital.
As a qualified respiratory therapist, Hyde has spent a lot of time by patients’ bedsides and has witnessed first-hand the difference that Aerogen technology makes.
“I would be a huge proponent of efficiency in the delivery of aerosolised medication and Aerogen does this better than anyone else.”
Medtronic and Aerogen have maintained a continuous relationship over the years. This has played a key role in maintaining Medtronic’s competitive edge in the ventilator market. “We are always back and forth figuring out what we can do between us to make things better,” says Hyde. “This covers everything from improving human factors to the module design and how it can be powered and connected to the ventilator. We are now looking at integrating Aerogen technology fully into our 980 ventilator system.
“The thing that makes the relationship with Aerogen really special is the company’s willingness to work with us as the realities of the business change. The team always seemed to be happy to roll with us when we asked for changes or to find different ways of doing things. They have even gone so far as creating circuit boards that we can integrate into our ventilators.”
According to CEO and founder of Aerogen John Power, it is a ‘can-do’ type of company and close collaboration with clients is essential. “We have to be able to get inside a company and work with its teams to ensure the customisation is the best it can be,” he says.
“We now have people in all of our major markets dedicated to working with customers, including four full-time in France and five in Germany.”
Medtronic is one of a number of large companies which have integrated Aerogen’s technology into their own platforms. Around five million patients in intensive care units have been treated using Aerogen products in 75 countries around the world.
“In the world of computing when you think of a high-quality product you are inclined to think of the Intel chip. We are like the Intel chip of aerosol drug delivery – the brand people look for.”
Across this fast moving sector, international buyers are partnering with Irish suppliers for their adaptability, capability and extensive experience in complex product development processes.