Galway’s SymPhysis raises €1.9m for breakthrough device

SymPhysis device to help treat chest condition experienced by cancer patients around the world.

Angels in three HBAN syndicates have led a €1.9M investment in Galway-based SymPhysis Medical.

The company is developing a patient-centric device that treats fluid in the chest, a distressing condition experienced by approximately half of metastatic cancer patients.

“The device will not only make patients more comfortable, but it can also give them the freedom to spend time with their loved ones and remain active and mobile”

SymPhysis Medical received funding from three HBAN syndicates – MedTech Syndicate, Irrus Investments and Boole Investment Syndicate – as well as DBIC Ventures, Enterprise Ireland and a private investor with significant experience in the palliative and home care markets. The angel syndicates invested a combined €925,000 in the company.

Medtech device provides comfort

The funding will be used to complete product development and target FDA clearance. The investment will also help SymPhysis Medical to expand its team, growing from three to seven people by the end of 2022.

Founders Tim Jones and Dr. Michelle Tierney uncovered the under-met need for effective treatment of fluid in the chest, or malignant pleural effusion, as part of the NUI Galway BioInnovate Fellowship programme. The condition is experienced by approximately half of metastatic cancer patients and can cause severe shortness of breath, chest pain and can be extremely distressing. Often, patients are fitted with an indwelling pleural catheter, which is invasive, has an uncomfortable external tube, requires frequent medical assistance and is long-term.

The device aims to give these patients more independence and reduce hospital visits. The funding will be used to complete product development and target FDA clearance.

“Palliative care is concerned with quality of life from the point of diagnosis of a life-limiting condition to the time of death,” said Tim Jones, CEO and co-founder of SymPhysis Medical.

“It focuses on managing distressing symptoms, such as pain and discomfort, and should also support a patient’s mental and social well-being.

“Patient and public involvement is a vital element of product development and we have worked closely with patient groups including AIIHPC (All Ireland Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care) and IPPOSI (Irish Platform for Patient Organisations, Science and Industry), as well as individuals with experience of malignant pleural effusions. These are really dedicated organisations who have provided us with invaluable insights into real patient needs, enabling us to develop the best possible device for patients. The device will not only make patients more comfortable, but it can also give them the freedom to spend time with their loved ones and remain active and mobile, without being tied to their hospital or carers.

“This funding will help us to deliver better quality of life to late-stage cancer patients and we will use it to support our international expansion, ensuring we reach as many patients as possible. The support of business angels from HBAN is essential as we embark on the next steps of our company’s journey. The angels have not only provided us with vital funding, but they also have valuable knowledge of – and experience in – our sector and a network of connections who can help us to make a meaningful global impact,” Jones said.

The company will initially target the US market and following FDA clearance, expects test market sales to reach €1.5m in the first year, commencing Q4 2023. SymPhysis Medical is already working with two of the top five cancer care centres in the US. This work includes a clinical study that commenced in November 2021, along with human factors usability studies which will provide insights into how patients will interact with the device. The team will quickly follow the rollout in the US by seeking the CE Mark in the EU and by Q4 2025, the company expects its turnover to reach €49m.

Dr David Breen, a leading Interventional Pulmonologist in Galway University Hospital, who has been advising the team for the last four years, said: “Breathlessness caused by a pleural effusion is both debilitating and limiting for patients. It has a significant negative impact on their quality of life and performance status. The ability to successfully drain the fluid and to perform this with confidence in an outpatient setting will greatly benefit patients.”

Richard Watson, Managing Partner, DBIC Ventures, added: “SymPhysis Medical’s releaze device provides a step-change improvement on existing solutions for managing fluid in the chest in late-stage cancer patients and should significantly improve their quality of life and reduce their number of clinical visits. We are very impressed with the two co-founders and look forward to working closely with the company in bringing the product to market and growing sales in international markets.”

Main image at top: Colin Henehan, chair of HBAN’s MedTech Syndicate; Tim Jones, CEO and co-founder, SymPhysis Medical; and Dr Michelle Tierney, CSO and co-founder, SymPhysis Medical. Photo: Michael Dillon-Dillon Photography

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