Holywood Medical #PurposePeoplePlace

In the latest edition of our NUI Galway 2020 Innovation Spotlight Series, we spoke to Rory Clerkin, CEO of Holywood Medical recently about the company, their product and the impact they hope it will have around the world. Holywood recently participated in the BioExel Programme ran in conjunction with the NUI Galway Innovation Office.

Can you tell us a little bit about your product?

Currently, there is no diagnostic test on the market to diagnose or predict a migraine. Holywood Medical have a patented biomarker test that can facilitate both. As per our dual test market strategy our target market is both clinical and home test customers. Both of these markets have significant unmet needs for a test of this nature. For our clinical test, our target market is the U.S. including the 209,000 primary care physicians and 18,000 neurologists/headache specialists. Our technology will enable clinicians to diagnose migraine accurately and reliably.

For our home test, our target market are the 36 million episodic migraineurs in the U.S. This will be a daily use test for them so the total addressable market is significant. The test will enable the migraineur to predict a migraine up to 24 hours in advance, thereby allowing them to better manage their condition by targeting their medication. Following market entry and growth in the U.S. we will enter the European market. Our technology will result in both a reduction in the use of resources and costs involved.

Who makes up the team at Holywood Medical?

Our core team are the three co-founders. As CEO, my responsibilities include the daily running of the business, pitching for investment, applying for grants, among other jobs. My background is as a senior medical scientist with 20 years management experience. Morris Black is a lead technical specialist for a world renowned pharmaceutical company with a strong background in diagnostics and immunoassays. Prof. Philip Lamey is a consultant oral surgeon and is the one who made the original discovery.

Our diverse advisory team adds a solid backbone in terms of biomarker and financial/commercial experience and knowledge. The original investigational studies were carried out in Queen’s University Belfast. Due to academic commitments and lack of commercial know-how the work ended up in the bottom drawer, so to speak. Holywood Medical was founded in 2018 to bring this important discovery to the market. The capital was raised through participating in the BioExel Programme which is funded by WDC, Enterprise Ireland, Galway University Foundation and Bank of Ireland Seed and Early Stage Equity Fund.

How have you raised funding for your project?

We are currently running a month-long study in Edinburgh that will provide us with up to date data. This combined with our previous data and prototype development/proof of principle will put us in a very strong position for seed funding. The test development process with take 14-16 months. The seed funding will take us to an inflection point post test development, with a new patent in place, a defined route to market for both tests and in a very strong position for Series A funding. This second round of funding will enable us to undertake the necessary investigational studies required for regulatory approval.

How did you decide to work in the medtech start-up space?

I have a passion to succeed at any task I commit myself to and I have always had a drive in me to be my own boss and run my own business. I started two sole trader businesses and built them up to be successful, so when the opportunity came up to be CEO of Holywood Medical I seized it with both hands. I get incredible satisfaction from dealing with people, managing and coordinating all that goes with running a medtech start-up and of course the continuous learning.

How have both NUI Galway and the BioExel Programme helped Holywood Medical?

Personally, I have learnt a great deal from the BioExel programme. I am very grateful to all those who were involved in running it. It brought great value and direction to the company from which I have developed a valuable network of peers in the medtech ecosystem. The major lessons that I will take from BioExel/NUI Galway is to be proactive to achieve your goals, speak to as many people as possible as you learn from each and every one, be persistent and driven and finally, always focus on the customer as they will be the ones whose lives will be improved by your product.

Finally, what advice would you give to others starting out on their journey?

Advice I would give to people starting out is to be focused, plan ahead, be organised, speak to as many CEO’s as you can as you will get valuable information on mistakes made and the journey they have undertaken. Be respectful of other people's time and above all else, have a passion for what you are doing.!

There are many characteristics that I believe are required to run a successful business. The ability to manage multiple tasks at the same time is crucial. Being a good communicator is also essential. The ability to concisely convey your message allows for clear communication and facilitates efficiency in all aspects of the business. Persistence is key. As I constantly say to myself, success is just around the corner. You hear of many successful entrepreneurs who note that just when they were about to quit they achieved a major milestone. All of these are not a given, you need to work at them consistently.

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