Aaron Hannon, Luminate Medical - Spotlight Interview | LSI USA ‘23

Luminate Medical is a clinical-stage healthcare technology company developing devices that control and prevent the side effects of cancer treatment.
Aaron Hannon
Aaron Hannon
CEO & Co-Founder, Luminate Medical



Nick Talamantes  0:14  

Aaron, thank you so much for joining me here at LSI.


Aaron Hannon  0:17  

Nick, thanks so much. I really appreciate it.


Nick Talamantes  0:18  

Tell me a little bit about Luminate Medical.


Aaron Hannon  0:20  

So at Luminate, we're building devices which help cancer patients to prevent the side effects of cancer treatment, things like hair loss, neuropathy, even infertility. So starting off with hair loss, we've built our first product, which is Lily. It's a portable wearable device that allows patients to prevent the hair loss caused by chemotherapy. And the innovation that we've got there is we've created a new technology approach, which allows us to do many of the same benefits of existing technologies in terms of efficacy. But we're able to solve some of the operational challenges and scaling those technologies up by creating a truly consumer oriented wearable device that allows the patient to control the treatment and for them to fit in and fit out of an infusion clinic in the same way that they would at the moment without receiving any additional treatment. So the vision is to create a treatment for the side effects of cancer treatment like Hair Loss, that's just as easy as buying a wig.


Nick Talamantes  1:20  

It's fascinating. We'll take it sequentially, then. And we'll start with Lily, tell us a little bit more about the technology.


Aaron Hannon  1:26  

Yeah, for sure. So we've developed a new compression based technology to try and solve the problem of unintended drug delivery to the hair follicles during chemotherapy treatment. So this is obviously not a new field, there are a lot of technologies that are out there that are giving patients some really good outcomes. But there's been some challenges in terms of scaling those and making that type of technology available to patients, both kind of even in large academic centers, but particularly in the community. And so we've looked at what are the challenges with actually trying to scale in the space. And it seems like at the moment, a lot of them are linked to some pretty simple operational issues. So with existing cooling devices, you've got to get a large piece of infrastructure, and how is that in the hospital and the patient has to be connected to it means that they're spending longer in hospital. And so what we've created is a portable wearable cap that's truly consumer oriented, that takes out the need for that kind of expensive and bulky cryogenic technology, and delivers the same effect, but ultimately allows the patient to slip in and slip out of chemotherapy tender because they would normally so the value prop is really clinics can continue to operate the way that they've always operated, but add this layer on top of patient quality of life services.


Nick Talamantes  2:45  

That's great. So this is different from traditional cold cap therapy, then.


Aaron Hannon  2:49  

Yeah, exactly. And it's not that I suppose we've we've seen with cold cap technology, that there's been some great outcomes, and we really want to continue that vein of having good efficacy for patients. And for us, the focus is on. Okay, how can we one make that more consistent for patients? Try and get over those hurdles? And then two, how can we make it scalable so that every patient can access this and not have the decision may be taken out of their hands because the hospital can't physically scale the requirements of running a cooling system,


Nick Talamantes  3:23  

You said, so there's no cooling system involved in this at all, from the pictures I've seen of the device, it looks like it's just the wearable cap.


Aaron Hannon  3:31  

Exactly that so it's just the wearable cap, the patient is able to take it home with them after they finished any individual chemotherapy treatment and bring it back in the next day for their infusion treatment. So we've developed a new compression therapy based protocol that allows that so we can deliver all of the benefits of cooling in terms of preventing that off target drug delivery, will take away some of those operational challenges and improve the consistency of the treatment too.


Nick Talamantes  3:55  

Are you able to explain how you've kind of miniaturize that? The cryo component of cooling therapy, there's usually for lack of better description, some tubing that runs into the cap that goes to a device that the cryo source I imagine, forgive my lack of complete understanding of the technology, but they have to then have that with them. How have you condensed all that into just a headpiece?


Aaron Hannon  4:19  

So again, our focus has been okay, what can we take about cryogenic technology and maybe find a new way to do that. So the key mechanism of action that we're looking at here is reducing blood perfusion around the hair follicle during chemotherapy treatment and for a period afterwards while the treatment is active in the body. So what we're trying to do is make sure that less drug is actually delivered to the hair follicle in the first place. And then when it's there, it's some second order mechanisms like less oxygen for to react with as well. And so how can we do that? And what we've developed is a new way of going after that with a compression therapy based protocol, which allows us to get very similar results in terms of profusion reduction, a little bit more consistently in what we've seen in our data to date, which is exciting. And ultimately, that's what's allowing us to miniaturize this treatment because we've gone from requiring cryogenic equipment, which, as you've seen, there's been a lot of innovation, but it's still quite a large piece of physical machinery that you've got to use to be able to create that effect. Whereas with a compression based therapy, you can use micro pumps that could use an AR device that are based on piece of electronics that make it really simple to integrate into a wearable device that can be very consumer oriented.


Nick Talamantes  5:36  

I know that it's pretty expensive, actually, for patients to get access to cold cap therapy, traditionally, so to say, is this going to be an issue with your device or has the miniaturization and the technological advances that you're implementing made it also an accessible device?


Aaron Hannon  5:53  

Yeah, so there's a few components to this one is obviously from a technology perspective, we think we can be very competitive in terms of what our cost of goods is going to be. But actually, I think one of the real barriers to accessibility is where the decision gets taken out of the patient's hands by the hospital system. And if you look at it from their perspective, it makes a lot of sense. So if I'm a hospital system, and I'm treating somebody with a cooling device, obviously, I want to provide a quality of life benefit to my patients. But ultimately, that means that that patient is going to be in that infusion Bay for 2 3 4 hours longer than they would be otherwise. So that means that for that infusion be that day, I'm treating maybe half as many patients as they would be otherwise. So if I'm, you know, 250 cedar infusion center, I might buy two cooling devices, but be treating 250 patients that day. Because I can't simply take on the revenue loss, let's say for a US based healthcare system, or let's say, if you're in Europe, you're going to really extend your waiting list to get into a treatment list. So those are the real challenges with access, where the decision gets taken out of the patient's hands, because it's not operationally possible for a hospital to offer it to all of their patients. And so with our technology, what we're trying to create is something that seamlessly fits into the way these clinics operate, and allows them to do what they've always been doing. And ultimately, we'll have a much higher percentage of that 250 cedar infusion center with patients who are getting access to best in class quality of life treatment.


Nick Talamantes  7:27  

Yeah, that is incredible that your technology, one addresses limitations of current technology, and maybe the transportability of it, how patients can get access to it. It also is more affordable, and you're increasing volume in those infusion centers. So ultimately, more patients are being treated, which is that's fantastic. Let's maybe shift gears a little bit and talk a bit about Lilac, which you mentioned is for the treatment of peripheral neuropathy do induced by chemotherapy.


Aaron Hannon  7:57  

Yeah, so this is a really exciting project for us, we announced last November. So for us, there's always been an ambition to, I suppose, be the company, which is going to provide quality of life services for patients as they go through their cancer journey. So we want to build the tools that will help people to not just survive cancer treatment, but to live because no one wants to just be a survivor. And so Lilac is our kind of first step on that pathway to expanding that portfolio of products works in a very similar clinical mechanism to the Lily device. We've seen some really interesting results and literature from some early phase studies that are happening around the world that types of technologies that are somewhat similar. And so we think we can apply a lot of the learning that we've had from the Lily concept there, too. So for us, it's an early stage pipeline project at the moment. Our aim is to introduce it to the US market and 2026. So we're looking at an FDA breakthrough designation. In the near term future we're looking at, hopefully progressing that into clinical data at some point in the near term future. But for us, it's a really exciting innovation project at the moment where we can take a lot of what we've learned in early device and a lot of crossover in terms of those technologies, and go after a kind of human factors engineering, ergonomics challenge that allows us to make a big difference for patients. And I guess the last thing that really excites me about this particular need is we think of all of the costs that gets sunk into health care, particularly in the US in cancer care. neuropathy is a massive example of that. So you have in the first nine months post chemo treatment, it's going to cost the hospitals $17,000 per incidence of neuropathy, and the follow up appointments and the medication and all of the work that they have to do to support patients through that. So there's a massive opportunity to improve patient quality of life, improve their outcomes, but also just try and sing Because of that cost of healthcare and make it more efficient,


Nick Talamantes  10:03  

yeah, it's my understanding, correct me if I'm wrong here that there's currently no way to really prevent the neuropathy from happening once it's been induced. You manage it with topicals. And pharmaceuticals, as you mentioned. So this is truly a breakthrough technology, if I'm not mistaken.


Aaron Hannon  10:18  

Yeah, for sure. And this was the thing with neuropathy is once somebody has it in their chronic setting, that's it, you know, it's, it's irreversible. And so there's been a lot of people looking at this space. It's a really hot topic in terms of research at the moment. And so we're really excited to be part of that, and like you say, create a real breakthrough innovation. That means that patients will be able to tolerate regimens for longer and have much better outcomes off the back of that


Nick Talamantes  10:44  

you are developing some really innovative technology, it sounds like I'm sure it takes a village to do that. What type of team are you building to make all this a reality?


Aaron Hannon  10:53  

So at Luminate, I'm really lucky to be surrounded by an amazing team. My co founders, Dr. Barbara or CTO and our other co founder, Professor Martin O'Halloran, at the University of Galway have been super supportive in terms of this was building building our team right from the start. And it's really been an effort between the three of us to develop the technology, develop the value, prop and work with our clinical advisors to create something which we think will really change the way that patients interact with with cancer treatment. And in the last, I suppose, years, since we've started to really scale up and enter our clinical phase, we've been able to build an incredible team around us both in r&d and regulatory and quality. And also on the clinical side, where we've got some amazing leaders in their fields and some some really promising talent, which is up and coming as well. who've gone through massive workload to bring us to the point where we're now bringing our Lily device to first and patient studies,


Nick Talamantes  11:58  

you know, I was taking a look at your about me or about our company page. And I do notice that you are building a team of young brilliant minds. So I am really looking forward to the things that you guys are going to do over Luminate.


Aaron Hannon  12:10  

Yeah, I mean, the energy that we have in the group is, is incredible. I think I count myself super lucky to be surrounded by the team that we've got, I think it's it's fair to say, we've got some really strong people who are early in their career and have demonstrated a track record of excellence, but we have so much room to grow. But we've also complimented that with a lot of been there and done it before as well, even in terms of our chairperson, Trish Smith, and some of our our senior managers have got a long career in medical devices behind the man ahead of them at this stage, and so I'm just really excited to be part of that team and feel really energized working alongside them.


Nick Talamantes  12:49  

That's great. So maybe zooming out a little bit, where are you at in terms of the growth stage of your company?


Aaron Hannon  12:56  

Yeah, for sure. So we're technical stage. Right now, we're, we're entering our first inpatient clinical trials with the Lily device. We've been doing some healthy human volunteer data across the Lilac and the Lily technologies for a while now. And alongside that, we've been doing our preclinical and working all the way back to idea stage. And as a company, we have our roots in the bio MFA program at the University of Galway in Ireland. And that ultimately culminated in myself and my co founder Barbara starting a commercialization fund under the guidance of our other co founder Prof. Martin O'Halloran at the University of Galway. And from there that two year project or task was really to build out a proof of concept for a technology to go after the hair loss need and ultimately, you know, create an investable business off the back of that. And probably, I suppose to some of the milestones you've had along the way were funded by Y Combinator and 2021, which was a really interesting experience for us to kind of step outside, maybe the pure medtech focus. And then, like I said, we've been able to find some really impressive grants around the hair loss technology, and more recently, the neuropathy technology, which we announced in November.


Nick Talamantes  14:13  

So maybe focusing a little bit now on yourself. It's my understanding that you're a Thiel Fellow. Could you talk a little bit about what that experience is like and what that's done for you as an entrepreneur, but also for your company?


Aaron Hannon  14:24  

Yeah, no, I think the recognition of the Thiel Fellowship has been it was first of all a massive surprise for us. Second of all, I think it's been quite powerful for me personally. And then I think, for us, as a company, as a company, it's allowed us to move on some milestones in terms of the funding that was available to us. And it's also provided us with some really interesting and unique connections that have allowed us to develop more technical contacts or you know, there are other fellows who are working on technologies which are helpful for us in terms of figuring out more about our devices and understanding them better. So it's been really interesting there. But I think for me personally, it's been an incredible learning experience to connect with other fellows who are doing world changing things, both in healthcare and in other industries. And I think the whole philosophy of the fellowship about, which is kind of, you know, we imagined a future, which was flying cars, and now we have 140 characters. And for me, I suppose I imagined a future, which is not about, you know, the jump from 140 to 280 characters on Twitter, but is more about, you know, can we help people to live better for longer after cancer treatment, and the tagline we use is to completely change the face of cancer. And, for me, that's the future I want to try and build.


Nick Talamantes  15:46  

That's fantastic. What brings you to LSI.


Aaron Hannon  15:50  

So I think for me, it's been a massive opportunity to engage with the medtech community, both from a financing point of view, but also from looking at partners in our value chain, who can help us bring our products into the market. So for example, there are a lot of health systems who have their venture teams here, their innovation teams here, that's a really exciting opportunity for us to say, Listen, we've got something in the pipeline here, which we think is really exciting. We've already got some pretty large US based hospital systems on board for our next stage studies with Lilly and early interest in Lilac as well. So that's a really exciting opportunity for us, and really, what we're trying to set out as a platform for us as, as a company, as you move from our clinical stage now, hopefully in the near term future to commercialization, looking at partners who can support us in doing that


Nick Talamantes  16:42  

you're a European company, what are the odds we find you at Barcelona in September?


Aaron Hannon  16:48  

I think they're, they're pretty strong. We're looking at a financing round at some point in the near term future. You know, that's, ultimately our aim is to scale into the the US and European markets in pretty short order and start impacting patients. So I suppose keep for the audience that keep their eyes out, we might be available at that point.


Nick Talamantes  17:09  

You know, you teased out a product there that sounds like it's in your pipeline, but I think we'll have to table that for a discussion and the next time you and I meet.


Aaron Hannon  17:17  

Yeah, absolutely. There's, there's a lot of work happening in the background. And I think it's important for us to recognize that we're really lucky to be part of an innovation ecosystem in the University of Galway, that gives us access to some first class researchers. And so yeah, there's some interesting stuff in the pipeline, which hopefully in a few months, we'll be able to talk a little bit more about


Nick Talamantes  17:37  

that is definitely exciting. I look forward to following the things you're doing over Luminate. Thank you so much for joining me Aaron. 


Aaron Hannon  17:43  

Thanks Nick.

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