A medical invention created in regional Victoria has been snapped up by the US healthcare network, Premier Inc. in a lucrative commercial deal for medtech startup Livac.
The LiVac retractor is a single-use soft silicone device that uses suction to create a vacuum to join organs such as the liver and spleen to the diaphragm during surgery.
It’s the brainchild of Warrnambool surgeon Dr Philip Gan, who wanted to provide a gentler, less invasive and less traumatic retraction solution in keyhole surgery, and faster recovery for patients.
“LiVac was a thought bubble in late 2009, and I had no background or training in medical device innovation,” he said.
“I was a busy regional general surgeon with a love of minimally invasive surgery who had an idea, and a genuine care to improve patient results.”
The LiVac retractor has been used in thousands of successful operations, and proof of its success comes from happy patients, including many of Dr Gan’s colleagues, including Warrnambool resident Dr Kate Murphy.
“I had my gallbladder removed a few years ago, after experiencing several bouts of excruciating pain,” she said.
“After the operation I had a very quick and painless recovery and in a few days was feeling completely back to normal, with practically invisible scars.”
Livac CEO Dr Anabela Correia said the Premier purchasing agreement will give Livac USA an immediate foothold for its device to be used in around 4,400 US hospitals and more than 250,000 other health care providers without the usual red tape and lengthy pre-approval processes for hospital use
“As an Australian company we can now continue to increase our presence in the US market and better position and support a growing international sales team. Scaling our sales in major markets such as the US with leading surgeons, will help to drive local adoption,” she said.
Dr Correia said around 300,000 bariatric procedures are performed in the US, annually, providing strong opportunity for the company.
“This market is -unfortunately – increasing with 50.7% of the US population forecast to be obese by 2030,” she said.
“Overall metabolic and bariatric surgery is estimated to improve or resolve more than 40 obesity-related disease conditions, resulting in decreased heath expenditures over time.”
Dr Gan said the LiVac Retractor can be used across all upper gastrointestinal surgeries, including laparoscopic and robotic surgeries – so the market is much larger than the company’s initial target of bariatric surgery.
Globally there are more than 12 million procedures a year that require the liver to be lifted.
They’re now looking to raise additional capital for his medtech startup’s global ambitions.
“The first four years of Livac Pty Ltd were completely funded by me, with the welcome contribution of $250,000 in 2013 from Commercialisation Australia,” he said.
“Our subsequent raises started with ‘Friends & Family’, who have remained supportive, and grown with Angel and High Net Worth investors. The investment market for MedTech in Australia is tight, and quite a different scene in the US.”
Dr Correia said they have highly respected US surgeons who can see the value proposition.
“With the right resources, we can grow this number, and sales volumes and valuation will follow,” she said.
“Livac is seeking strategic partners and investors who understand the market. Coming in now is expected to be a “last in, first out” investment opportunity.”