News Article

Durham entrepreneur's colonoscopy device scores $255K grant to expand use
Date: Sep 15, 2021
Author: Lauren Ohnesorge
Source: Bizjournals ( click here to go to the source)

Featured firm in this article: Colowrap LLC of Durham, NC

Sometimes complex problems require simple solutions. That’s the take of a Durham entrepreneur tackling the colonoscopy industry.

A colonoscopy -- said James Hathorn, CEO of Durham firm ColoWrap -- is a lot like “trying to get a hose from one side of your house to the other side.”

It’s not always a smooth process.

“Looping,” occurs in up to 90 percent of the procedures, causing pain, complications and even failed exams.

But Hathorn, who founded the company back in 2012, says he has a solution -- and it’s not one that required billions of capital and dozens of engineers. It’s a single-use pressure sleeve -- and this week it scored major validation in the form of a Phase 1 National Science Foundation grant worth $255,000.

Looping happens when the scope stretches the colon as the physician advances. To correct the problem, staff apply manual pressure, a method that can be uncomfortable for both patients and personnel. By applying the pressure sleeve, however, patient comfort is enhanced and the procedure time is shortened, according to the company. Looping is more common in obese patients, which is where the product is targeted today. But with the latest grant, the firm will start testing the device in patients at the other end of the Body Mass Index spectrum.

The grant will allow the firm to develop a next generation device to solve the problem in another patient vertical -- expanding the market even further.

“We think this concept will eventually be used for every single colonoscopy,” Hathorn said.

And, as there are 19 million colonoscopies performed each year in the U.S. alone, that could amount to billions in revenue. For now, ColoWrap is used on upwards of 20 to 30 percent of patients that the company's partner providers see. Hathorn said the initial goal was one in 10. He declined to release revenue figures, but said they had doubled over the past year.

Hathorn said his story has a big takeaway for entrepreneurs.

“There’s a perception in health care that everything that has to have a big impact has to be thousands of dollars and super high tech,” he said. “Big companies have spent like, a quarter of a billion dollars trying to solve this and haven’t addressed it.”

Meanwhile, a small company in Durham is delivering the devices -- and securing federal funds.

“That’s a mark of validation,” Hathorn said.

Right now, ColoWrap has a team of 10. But as adoption increases, so will the staff, he said.

ColoWrap, which has raised more than $1 million, was the recipient of a TBJ 2020 Life Sciences Award.