A new femtech device is preparing for launch in the Triangle. UVision360 was founded in January 2016 to offer gynecologists a lower cost alternative to diagnose and treat many uterine conditions right in their offices. According to CEO Allison London Brown, “We developed a compact, fully-integrated hysteroscopy/cystoscopy system with strong visualization performance at a value-based cost.”
This means two things:
- A system that is both clinically effective and more affordable, providing office access for more physicians.
- A compact and complete system that is straightforward to set-up, use, and reprocess; physicians can more effectively detect, diagnose, and even provide therapeutic alternatives in their office, vs. surgical interventions in the operating room.
These combined features, Allison says, can lead to better care for women, earlier detection, and improved health outcomes. “We are aligned as a team; being cash efficient, time effective, and hyper-focused is our business culture, but it’s also what sets us apart.”
UVision360’s product, the Luminelle DTx Hysteroscopy System, is only 19 months in the making. Hysteroscopes are thin, lighted tubes that allow for examinations of the uterus and bladder. The Luminelle is unique among hysteroscopes in that it brings operating room-level capabilities into physician’s offices, including therapeutic interventions.
According to national claims data, one of the most common uses for hysteroscopy is to find the cause of abnormal uterine bleeding. Currently, 80% of hysteroscopy procedures are done in a hospital or ambulatory surgery center. Having access to these diagnostic and therapeutic tools in a comfortable office setting could help destigmatize this important component of women’s health.
Although she did not invent the basics of the technology, Allison and her CTO, Erich Dreyer, leveraged their knowledge of the industry, coupled with bringing in key resources to design and launch the system. Under Allison’s leadership, Luminelle is now planned for commercialization early this year, just 19 months and with only $1.7M utilized from their original raise.
The reason for this success can be heard in her voice: she truly believes in the system and the company’s goal of helping women detect and potentially prevent reproductive and urinary conditions. “It is elegant, compact, and uses the latest technology available at a fraction of the cost,” she says. The system is slated to cost 75% less than the current industry standard endoscopic tower equipment.
Luminelle has been designed and produced utilizing a 99% United States-based supply chain, with the majority located in North Carolina thanks to partnerships with Robling Medical in Youngsville and a plastic injection molding lab in Asheville. “We’ve found North Carolina to be a great place for an innovative company to get plugged in—and quickly,” Allison says. “If you’re starting a company in the medical device or biotech field, this is a great place to be.”
Allison, who previously worked in New Jersey, Nashville, Bangalore, and Boston, says the RTP community has been the most welcoming she has experienced in her career. “I found the groups [elsewhere] to be more difficult to navigate,” she says. “We have found RTP, the greater Triangle, and North Carolina to be a great resource for investment, consultants, development, and production,” Allison says. She attended graduate school at NC State, where her MS degree focused on polymer chemistry, before earning an MBA from Temple University.
She relocated to the Triangle with her husband, who attended Wake Forest University, in 2013. “I moved back here with a startup, in part because we were ready to leave Boston, but also because I had heard so many great things from people we knew,” she says.
Allison says that UVision360’s mission has truly taken flight thanks to the environment here, which is so open to entrepreneurs and research. “All four universities here are doing amazing work in STEM, especially life sciences,” she says, and that pipeline has been instrumental in finding talented people to join the UVision360 team.
“Other than our CMO, David Robinson, all of our other resources and employees came through referrals of people I knew personally or met at Council for Entrepreneurial Development (CEDNC) and First Flight Venture Center (FFVC) events.” She is also thankful to Dr. Sam Hudson, polymer chemist and professor at NC State, who helped her with resources.
“For me personally, the staff at FFVC (Andrew Schwab) and the NC Biotech Center (Vivian Doehling) have also been invaluable in networking, problem solving, and the execution of our mission.” She enjoys attending LaunchBio events, too: “I’m a big fan of Joan [Seifert Rose].” Allison notes access to capital, as well resources like Women in Bio, as additional factors helping to differentiate the RTP area.
Still, she says, there is some work to be done. “I would love to see more women CEOs.” Allison notes that while there are many successful women scientists in the Triangle area, she would like to see more female investors and decision makers, and more people of diverse backgrounds in leadership roles. “We feel very welcome here,” she says, but as the Triangle’s collaborative environment continues to grow, “I look forward to seeing more opportunities for people to share their insights and knowledge, best practices and things they have learned.”