Amara shows bladders who’s boss

Galway medtech Amara Therapeutics has developed technology to better manage bladder health and help patients to get on with their lives.

As Brendan Staunton, CEO of Amara Therapeutics explains it, Overactive Bladder (OAB) is a debilitating bladder condition that affects 52m women in the US and the EU.

OAB is caused by miscommunication between the brain and bladder.

“Our mission is to improve the lives of the millions of patients who suffer daily from Overactive Bladder”

The main symptoms are Urinary Urgency, a sudden and unexpected urge to urinate that is hard to control and often leads to unexpected urine leakage (Urinary Urge Incontinence), Urinary Frequency, the need to use the bathroom far more than is considered normal (12-14 times a day) and Nocturia, having to wake multiple time in the night to urinate.

“Having an unpredictable bladder has a devastating effect on quality of life. 40% find it limits their daily activities, 15% become reclusive,” Staunton explains. “Patients experience 2X increase in anxiety and depression and 3X higher rates of unemployment. OAB is currently mainly treated with medications as the recommended first line treatment (behavioural therapy which corrects the brain-bladder miscommunication) is difficult to access.”

Better management of bladder health

Amara Therapeutics, is a Galway-based medtech company founded in 2021.

Amara develops digital therapeutics with an initial focus on managing bladder health and reducing the impact of Overactive Bladder. Digital Therapeutics are digitally delivered programmes that users access directly through apps on their smartphone, allowing for convenient accessible care provision.

“Our first product, BladderBoss, is an app delivered behavioural programme that provides users with an 8-week multidisciplinary intervention that combines behavioural therapy techniques with psychology, lifestyle modifications, physiotherapy, and dietetics into one comprehensive program.

“Users are guided through the programme via interactive and engaging audio and video content and can track their progress via an in-built bladder diary.

“The goal of BladderBoss is to help users better understand their condition and to give them the tools they need to better manage their bladder health. BladderBoss is available from the apple and google play and costs €97 euro per 8-week programme with users retaining access to all content for a period of one year.

Future of health visionaries

Brendan Staunton BSc, MSc, MBA, Amara’s CEO, is an experienced medical device commercialisation expert. Staunton took part in the Bioinnovate Fellowship at The University of Galway where the initial unmet clinical need was first identified.  

Co-founder Dr Emma Carr BSc, MSc, PhD, Amara’s COO, is a health psychologist with expertise in developing digital health products and running digital trials. .

Also on the co-founding team is Prof Geoff Cundiff MD,FACOG,FACS,FRCSC, an urogynecologist, and Professor of OBGYN at the University of British Columbia and former president of AUGS.

To stay agile, Amara uses Microsoft Teams to stay in contact throughout the day and regularly meet in its Galway office for brainstorming, ideation and planning sessions.

“As a company we adopt a hybrid working model which works well for us as we get the best of both worlds, quality in person time but also time working from home which can be more productive depending on the task at hand.”

Galway’s medtech prowess

The Galway medtech ecosystem, he explained, is formidable and inspiring.

“Galway is one of the best places in the world to set up a medical device company,” says Staunton.

“We have leveraged this ecosystem to the benefit of the company and to date have worked closely with Enterprise Ireland, Western Development Commission and University of Galway, all of whom have contributed to our success to date.”

He explained that Amara is currently raising a €5m round which will enable it to further commercialise BladderBoss and also develop additional products, some of which require regulatory approval, which will allow it to target additional geographies, in particular the US and Germany.

“One of the biggest lessons we have learned is that digital therapeutics is a new and evolving space and its takes time for health systems, clinicians and patients alike to adopt new ways of providing and receiving care.

“We are excited by the potential of digital therapeutics and it’s capabilities to transform healthcare delivery, reduce cost across the system and ultimately provide more convenient effective care to patients.”

He said that innovation and forcing change is hard, particularly in slow moving long-established sectors like healthcare.

“You have to be incredibility persistent in your approach but be willing to change pivot and adapt as your company grows. Finally, always keep the patient at the centre of everything you do, they are the reason we do what we do and never lose sight of what you set out to achieve.

“For Amara our mission is to improve the lives of the millions of patients who suffer daily from Overactive Bladder.”

Main image at top: Amara Therapeutics co-founders Dr Emma Carr and Brendan Staunton

John Kennedy
Award-winning editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.