NephTech is a medical technology startup dedicated to providing patients and dialysis centres an evidence-based approach to vascular access surveillance and management. Vascular access is an end-stage kidney failure patient’s lifeline as it allows removal of body waste through haemodialysis. This has to be kept patent (unobstructed) to ensure a smooth haemodialysis process.

The NephTech device which the team has been developing for the past 3 years is the first-of-its-kind, non-invasive technology that can detect blockages or complications in the vascular access before they happen. The aim is to simplify and objectivise how clinicians assess the development of complications, potentially reducing hospitalisation and associated costs to the dialysis patients.

How It All Started

NephTech was founded in early 2016 by Ms Toh Yanling and NTU alumnus Dr James Lim, ex-colleagues from the Singapore-Stanford Biodesign (SSB) Programme. Passionate about solving unmet clinical problems, they curated a long list of initial ideas from their clinical network. This particular idea stood out due to its non-invasiveness, clinical market size, and intellectual property landscape.

Now a 10-person team, NephTech counts NTU alumnus Wang Shengxiao (EEE/2014) as one of their key members. Like most of his peers, Shengxiao joined a big company after graduation but after more than 2 years there, he felt an increasing drive to pursue his real interest in the medical healthcare field.

Having joined the NephTech team in 2017, Shengxiao oversees product development which requires him to manage suppliers. He conducts clinical studies regionally where he engages with NephTech’s key clinical partners, namely patients, nurses and doctors.

“I find the learning curve here steep – I’ve learnt more in my first 6 months here in NephTech compared to the 2+ years I spent at my former workplace! I realise the good thing about doing something you’re passionate about is you’ll never get tired, and the experience is very rewarding. Knowing we’re working on something that addresses real needs and problems is indeed exciting,” he shared.

NephTech & NTUitive

NTUitive has been part of the NephTech journey since Day 1, providing the team mentorship and guidance and recommendation of investors, events and market entry.

The co-founders sought advice from Dr Lim Jui (CEO, NTUitive) who helped assess their idea and provided guidance for them to apply for funding. In 2016, the team received the Multidisciplinary Team Projects (MDT) grant of $10,000 through NTUitive – which helped them get started on prototyping as well as building their case for private investments and public government grants.

NTUitive then awarded them a six-figure Strategic Research Innovation Fund (SRIF) investment in December 2017. The NephTech team is now part of the NTU-NUS JUMPstart programme – a joint university medical technologies accelerator programme – benefitting from a good supportive structure of mentorship from experts and veterans in the medical space from all disciplines. NephTech also received six-figure funding from JUMPstart.

What’s Next for NephTech?

For the next few months, the NephTech device will be going through quality and safety validations as part of the commercialisation process. By year-end, the team is targeting to achieve CE marking – an indication their device has been assessed to meet high safety, health, and environmental protection requirements and can be sold in the European Economic Area (EEA) – before launching Series A fundraising round.

The NephTech team has also been actively conducting clinical studies in Singapore, Malaysia Vietnam and Taiwan. Once their product is ready, it will be launched in these markets, including Australia and China.

In addition, the team is looking to expand on the manpower front, particularly getting AI enthusiasts onboard.

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