Lightning plaster eases pain and cuts cost

PlasmaCure is developing an electronic plaster to help heal chronic foot lesions in diabetics. As well as improving many people's quality of life, the product brings major cost savings. The company started the first of the necessary safety studies enabled by the Proof-of-Concept Funding (in Dutch: VroegeFaseFinanciering or VFF) of the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO).

"In the Netherlands alone, there are about thirty thousand diabetics with chronic foot lesions. Treating those lesions is costing the community a great deal of money. What's more, 20 per cent of chronic diabetic lesions lead to foot amputations, which involve even more suffering for the patient and cost to the community," explains Bas Zeper, PlasmaCure's Director. "If our product is shown to work, it will be a major breakthrough. Patients and doctors are waiting with bated breath for the results of our first studies."

Technology has fantastic potential

"Cold plasma is a controlled gas discharge in the air, similar to lightning," Zeper continues. "The controlled discharges kill bacteria in the wound and have a beneficial effect on cell division and blood circulation. Those three factors mean that lesions heal within weeks. The use of cold plasma has fantastic potential. Nevertheless, when it came to raising finance for the first phase, we didn't find it easy."

Clinical pilot

"Proof-of-Concept Funding (VFF) is now helping us through the clinical pilot," says Zeper. "Investors tend to shy away from that phase of development. However, if we can show that the technology is safe for patients, we've got a good chance of finding a backer. What's more, the VFF allows us to negotiate with potential investors from a position of strength."

Further development

Zeper created the product in collaboration with Eindhoven University of Technology, but envisages a more independent future for his company. "I'm very pleased that the VFF has made it possible to take on the staff needed to take product development forward. It has made life a lot easier. Meanwhile, I'm working on securing additional patent protection. We can't use the VFF for that, but fortunately we've found another financier to fund the patent work."

Tips for start-ups

Zeper feels that it's natural that funding for highly speculative activities is hard to come by. So his advice to others in a similar position is to get their product tested as soon as possible: "Get in touch with RVO.nl as early in the process as you can. They can assess the potential of your idea. That in turn prevents procedural errors and saves time. Coming up with persuasive answers to RVO.nl's questions also obliges you to get your ideas in order."

Public recognition for a promising product

At the recent Diabetic Foot Symposium in The Hague, PlasmaCure won the public prize. "It was a nice endorsement," says Zeper. "Also, other responses I've received lead me to believe that a lot of people are eagerly awaiting our product. If it proves to be as helpful for diabetics with chronic foot lesions as we hope, we intend to investigate the scope for using it for patients with other conditions, such as burns, decubitus (bed sores) and ulcus cruris."

Source: Netherlands Enterprise Agency