First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Scott Mader: We are fortunate enough to have dodged a lot of potential landmines for now. My big brother is a Manhattan resident, and he immediately relocated to our homeland of Maders Cove, Nova Scotia, just prior to lockdown. This allowed him and his family to avoid the tragedy that struck NYC this spring. We are thrilled that they are safe. My mother is in assisted living, and I’m very comforted and impressed at how they are managing the pandemic in order to protect our families’ most valuable asset -my dear mother, Jessica. I went in for a visit back east in July and was broken-hearted to only be able to see her through a window – it’s the first time I’ve ever seen my mother without the ability to hug her or hold her hand. These are the right sacrifices to take, of course, but it is a reminder of how this virulent pathogen has impaired even the most basic human value – being able to touch those we love most in life.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded AseptiScope?
Scott Mader: My career has been centered on bringing first in class medical innovations to the market. My first decade was dedicated to launching novel pharmaceutical products to healthcare. Products like Glucophage have done wonderful things for patients worldwide, and I’m very proud of that. In my second decade, I moved from big East coast pharm to the California MedTech startup world. Here I applied the same strategic principles to introducing state-of-the-art biomarkers for clinical diagnosis and management. The third decade was hanging a shingle as a strategic consultant to the industry at my evidence-based strategy firm, CLINDEVOR 360. It was there that we identified this enormous vulnerability in infection control programs in the world.
While we wash our hands as the cornerstone of infection control in healthcare, the clinicians “third hand,” the stethoscope, continues to move the same pathogens from patient to patient with no effective means to decontaminate them. This undermines everything else we do to keep patients safe. So my partners and I founded AseptiScope, determined to resolve this problem that is as old as the stethoscope itself.
How does AseptiScope innovate?
Scott Mader: We have developed a method of innovation that combines “market driven science” with a unique development approach. Our qualitative and quantitative market analytics provide us with the core attributes of the product that will resolve this problem. From infectious disease specialists to chief nursing officers, our target audience defines the solution – and we build it along with the intellectual property that protects it.
Our development program combines three streams in parallel paths. The first is product development. While our engineers are developing the ideal product, we also deploy our second development stream – market development. This is a process whereby we begin to communicate with the healthcare market space about the scope of the problem and the requirements for the solution. The third development stream is clinical development – this is the validation of how the product satisfies the clinical dilemma. Controlled clinical studies, assessments, and protocols are put into place with academic medical research programs, then the analysis and results speak for themselves. We published six times in 2018 and have another series of publications in the medical literature this year. This “development triad” has always been the lynchpin to innovation success in medical technology for our team. Our innovation with “The DiskCover System” will be launched before the end of the year. We are very excited about it.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Scott Mader: It is a real paradox at AseptiScope. Like most businesses, ensuring a smooth supply chain and market access is a challenge when you are a young company trying to get your first foray into the commercial marketplace. On the other hand, the irony is that, once we move through these gauntlet caused by COVID-19, our solution will directly help fight against C19 as the first solution to stethoscope contamination in healthcare. We can’t wait to unveil it.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Scott Mader: We did have to make difficult choices. However, dealing with the unexpected is something that you can always expect. So while COVID-19 forced us to engage differently, ranging from our suppliers to our investors. The one thing it forced us to do is mature our HR policy at a pace well ahead of the normal startup. A challenge like this does not yield to informality. Ensuring we had a strong policy and implementation practice for a safe work environment was actually critical, as we were staffing up for launch just as we begin recognizing the pandemic scope.
The truth is that, in many ways, a startup company model is not bad for dealing with COVID-19. Young companies have always been lithe and nimble and able to shift on a dime if needed; it’s a real advantage vs. large, regulatory entrenched companies. We immediately made the necessary accommodations. Because we have such a small staff, we could train on critical changes and implement them immediately.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and AseptiScope in the future?
Scott Mader: A young startup company will always be full of stress and anxiety if you are determined to succeed. Much of it is self-induced, of course. We are digging in with big aspirations and few resources. We carry on our shoulders the weight of investors who have entrusted us with their investment, and a competitive marketplace that recognizes the same opportunity we see in front of us. Amazingly, if you take time to breathe, walk, and laugh, it works wonders. Because the challenging times add stress and anxiety, taking time to celebrate the victories along the way relieves stress and anxiety – so we always make time to acknowledge our progress. It helps you build momentum and thrive in the face of adversity.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Scott Mader: We are in the game of infection control and keeping stethoscopes from contaminating patients and caregivers. Like most novel entrants, our most significant competitor is the current standard of care. Today stethoscope hygiene requires a minute of a doctor or nurse’s time between patients. Caregivers do not have that kind of time, so we were not surprised to find that <4% of stethoscopes are appropriately cleaned between patients. The other option is for hospitals to use “single patient stethoscopes.” In order to have a dedicated stethoscope for every patient, you need to furnish your hospital with a great many very cheap stethoscopes.
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