A medical invention created in regional Victoria has been picked up by US healthcare network Premier Inc. in a lucrative commercial deal for medtech startup Livac.
The LiVac Retractor is a soft silicone disposable device that uses suction to create a vacuum to connect organs such as the liver and spleen to the diaphragm during surgery.
It is the brainchild of Warrnambool surgeon Dr. Philip Gan who wanted to provide a gentler, less invasive and less traumatic retraction solution for keyhole surgery and faster recovery for patients.
“LiVac was a thought bubble at the end of 2009 and I had no background or training in medical device innovation,” he said.
“I was a busy regional general surgeon with a penchant for minimally invasive surgery, who had an idea and a genuine concern for improving patient outcomes.”
The LiVac Retractor has been used in thousands of successful surgeries and evidence of its success comes from satisfied patients, including many of Dr. Gan’s colleagues, including Dr. Warrnambool resident Kate Murphy.
“I had my gallbladder removed a few years ago, after going through several bouts of excruciating pain,” she said.
“After the operation I recovered very quickly and painlessly and within a few days I felt completely normal again, with almost invisible scars.”
Livac CEO Dr Anabela Correia said the Premier purchase agreement gives Livac USA an immediate foothold for use in approximately 4,400 US hospitals and more than 250,000 other healthcare providers without the usual red tape and lengthy approval procedures for hospital use
“As an Australian company, we can now continue to grow our presence in the US market and gain a better position and support a growing international sales team. Scaling our sales in large markets like the US with leading surgeons will help drive local adoption,” she said.
Dr. Correia said about 300,000 bariatric procedures are performed each year in the US, which represents great opportunity for the company.
“This market is – unfortunately – growing with 50.7% of the US population projected to be obese by 2030,” she said.
“General metabolic and bariatric surgery is estimated to improve or resolve more than 40 obesity-related disease states, resulting in reduced health expenditures over time.”
Dr. Gan said the LiVac Retractor can be used in all upper gastrointestinal surgeries, including laparoscopic and robotic surgery – so the market is much larger than the company’s initial target of bariatric surgery.
Worldwide, there are more than 12 million procedures per year that require liver lift.
They are now seeking additional capital for his medtech startup’s global ambitions.
“The first four years of Livac Pty Ltd were funded entirely by me, with the welcome contribution of $250,000 in 2013 from Commercialization Australia,” he said.
“Our subsequent raises started with ‘Friends & Family’, who continued to support us, and grew with Angel and High Net Worth investors. The investment market for MedTech in Australia is tight, and in the US it’s a completely different scene.”
said Dr. Correia they have highly respected American surgeons who can see the value proposition.
“With the right resources, we can grow this number, and sales volumes and appreciation will follow,” she said.
“Livac is looking for strategic partners and investors who understand the market. Entering now is expected to be a “last in, first out” investment opportunity.”