News & Trends - MedTech & Diagnostics

Local medtech secures global commercial deal to address the growing market need

Health Industry Hub | November 18, 2022 |

MedTech News: A medical device invention developed locally has been snapped up by a US company in a lucrative commercial deal.

The LiVac retractor is a single-use soft silicone device that uses suction – rather than hand-held retractors and harsh metal devices – to create a vacuum to join solid organs like 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. 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,” said Dr Gan.

The LiVac retractor has since been used in thousands of successful patient operations, including for Warrnambool resident, Dr Kate Murphy.

“I had my gallbladder removed a few years ago, after experiencing several bouts of excruciating pain. 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,” she said.

Another happy patient is Dr Greg Pallas, a Victorian Paediatrician. He had two operations with the use of the LiVac device. The first for a Lap Band removal, and associated procedures. The second, for a gallbladder removal surgery.

“It all went very smoothly. I had the procedure on a Friday morning and went home that afternoon and was able to return to light work duties as a paediatrician on the Monday morning. I feel there was less handling of the liver that allowed less trauma and a rapid recovery time,” said Dr Pallas.

“I remember as a surgical resident 30 years ago assisting with open gallbladder removal surgeries. I was the hapless assistant who was responsible for retracting the liver. Patients were in hospital for 10 days and were not back at work for at least a month. There certainly was a significant amount of pain involved. I am very grateful to have had my procedures in the era of laparoscopic surgery.”

Premier’s national group purchasing agreement for a New Technology Breakthrough, will give Livac USA an immediate foothold for its device to be used and distributed across 4,400 US hospitals and more than 250,000 other healthcare providers.

Livac’s CEO and Managing Director Dr Anabela Correia, said it’s a big deal as it cuts through a lot of red tape and lengthy pre-approval processes that would otherwise be encountered in the hospital approval process. It enables the product to convert to clinical utility and sales in almost half the time.

“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,” said Dr Correia.

The lucrative agreement became effective from October 2022. It allows the extensive network of Premier members to take advantage of special pricing and pre-approval for use of the device in the Endo-Mechanical products category.

A large portion of patients fit within the lucrative obesity market, hence the US is a major focus for the Livac Group. It offers enormous commercial potential, due to lower barriers to market amid increasing market demands, particularly in America.

Dr Correia said approximately 300k bariatric procedures are performed every year in the US, and the surgery market is predicted to keep growing.

“This market is (unfortunately) increasing with 50.7% of the US population forecast to be obese by 2030. The cost of obesity on the US economy is anticipated to reach $344Bn in 2018. 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,” she said.

Dr Gan added that surgeons acknowledge that the most prevalent metal liver retractor currently used for liver retraction can be rough on the liver, requires its own incision, causes pain and interferes with robot arms in robotic surgery.

One of those surgeons, US bariatric specialist, Dr Paul Enochs, said revisional bariatric surgery accounts for 16.7% of total surgeries, so it’s important to always use best practice whenever possible.

“It is one of the most challenging types of surgery and is increasingly being performed robotically. The (revisional) surgery requires adhesions to be removed prior to commencement of the procedure. The LiVac is the only device on the market able to lift the liver from above. It eliminates the need to scrub in or rely on a physician’s assistant several times to reposition a metal retractor. In these cases, the LiVac saves time and simplifies the surgery,” said Dr Enochs.

The LiVac Retractor can be used across all upper gastrointestinal surgeries, including laparoscopic, robotic, and revisional surgeries so the market for Livac is much larger than the company’s initial target market of bariatric surgery. Worldwide there are more than 12 million procedures every year that require the liver to be lifted.

Livac is backed by clinical evidence which shows reduced surgical procedure times, does not cause any tissue or organ damage, reduced patient post-op pain and pain medication, one less incision/scar, and does not clash with robot arms.

Premier’s endorsement provides a major credibility boost to the reputation of Australia’s homegrown medtech product. While LiVac’s focus is currently in the USA, the company would really love Australia to become a bigger market.

“The first four years of Livac were completely funded by me, with the welcome contribution of $250K in 2013 from Commercialisation Australia. Our subsequent raises started with ‘Friends & Family’ 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,” said Dr Gan.

Livac’s Directors admit the journey has been challenging, but the company has now entered the largest medical device market in the world and is confident in its future.

“We have an incredible global team including multinational medical device executives, and a product that addresses a known and growing market need. The Company is in revenue and is now primed to reap the rewards of all its hard work. We already 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. 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,” added Dr Correia.

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