REDI: MedTech Actuator Supports WA Start-Up VitalTrace to Revolutionise Childbirth

Pictured: from left, first photo, Dr Michael Challenor Co-Founder and CTO VitalTrace and Dr Arjun Kaushik Co-Founder and CEO VitalTrace, who found taking part in the MedTech Actuator Accelerator shifted the culture and DNA of their company in a beneficial and positive way. Second photo, the MedTech Actuator Showcase in 2022 in Melbourne at Glasshouse Olympic Park. 

Invaluable learning, investment and networking opportunities gained during the MedTech Actuator Accelerator have empowered VitalTrace to advance its revolutionary fetal monitoring device in just a few years.

As one of eight industry and research partners working alongside MTPConnect to deliver the Researcher Exchange and Development within Industry (REDI) initiative, MedTech Actuator supports Australian biotech and healthtech innovators on their journey to commercialisation.

Annually, the MedTech Actuator works with around 15 to 20 high-potential companies in a 12-month accelerator, that is industry-led and venture-backed – providing hands-on mentorship, an initial investment of up to $200,000, plus access to the MedTech Actuator network. The accelerator sets founders with ambitious milestones and pushes teams to develop their knowledge and capacity to drive medical innovation to market, refine their commercialisation strategy and advance their technology’s capability to make a difference.

Western Australia-based medtech manufacturer VitalTrace participated in MedTech Actuator’s first accelerator cohort in 2018. Founded to improve the safety of mothers and babies during childbirth, VitalTrace is developing a minimally invasive obstetric continuous lactate monitor – DelivAssure™ – that the team hopes will set a new standard in fetal distress monitoring. Successful commercialisation of this solution has the potential to drastically reduce the rate of unnecessary C-sections and cases of fetal hypoxia, that lead to hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy and cerebral palsy.

Shifting the company’s culture and DNA – milestones & check-ins

According to VitalTrace Co-Founder and CEO, Dr Arjun Kaushik, taking part in the accelerator shifted the company’s culture and DNA. “The milestones set by the MedTech Actuator Accelerator and the way of working within the program became a part of our company culture,” said Dr Kaushik. “These practices have stayed with us. We’re constantly pushing for milestones and checking in weekly to make sure we’re converting tasks and milestones to green lines.”

Testament to the success of the accelerator, in just 2.5 years, VitalTrace’s technology progressed from bench to a clinical prototype. The company also obtained over $7.7 million funding across two capital raises; received over $4 million in non-dilutive state and federal grant funding; expanded its team from four staff in 2019 to over 30 individuals as of July 2022; and gathered advanced preclinical data in 35 large animal birthing studies.

With advanced manufacturing established, three patents secured and pre-submissions to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted, VitalTrace is well placed to push forward with its current capital raise and move through the final stages of product development, in-human clinical trials, and manufacturing to be market-ready in the next three years.

This is supported by the FDA designating VitalTrace's device as a 'Breakthrough Device' – only the second designation to come out of Western Australia – which will expedite the approval process.

‘Pushing the needle’ – honing capabilities, taking risks & optimisation

Off the back of the accelerator, VitalTrace’s Co-Founders, Dr Kaushik, and Dr Michael Challenor, have grown into the roles of leading a successful medical device venture, honing their capabilities to identify strong talent and opportunities, take necessary risks, bring out the best in their team and leverage the Australian healthcare system’s support to push the needle for VitalTrace.

For Dr Challenor and the VitalTrace team, the accelerator delivered value in a multitude of ways. “Even the mistakes you make – the false starts and time wasted – are learning opportunities, particularly at the start,” he said. “MedTech Actuator Accelerator is there to help you make those mistakes. The program is your sounding board – the space to test and try things out – so that you can fail fast and move forward with clarity.”

Since completing the accelerator, VitalTrace has been making waves – and continues to do so – across Australia’s medical innovation ecosystem. The company has created nation-first biosensor manufacturing capabilities, bringing micro-fabrication teams in-house, which it is gearing to scale out.

The importance of an ongoing support structure

The connection between the MedTech Actuator and VitalTrace has remained strong, well beyond their completion in the 12-month Accelerator program.

As medical commercialisation is a long and complex road, partners like the MedTech Actuator are critical to support the ongoing growth and success of maturing ventures. From helping navigate key strategic questions, to providing guidance, advice, and connection, all from people who have deep experience and have walked the path already.

As the MedTech Actuator grows and continues to develop its networks and presence globally, portfolio companies such as Vital trace continue to benefit from this expanding ecosystem.

Leveraging its ongoing relationship with MedTech Actuator, the company has strengthened its commercialisation strategy, built strong relationships beyond the Australian market – in both Singapore and the US – and moved DelivAssure closer to market.

VitalTrace technology now validated on six continents

Not only is VitalTrace changing the standards of practice in fetal monitoring and healthcare outcomes for mothers and their babies, but it is also clearing a pathway for medical innovations to emerge in Western Australia and Australia-wide. As a leader in MedTech Actuator’s portfolio, VitalTrace is pushing to close a $6 million Series A2 capital raise in early 2023, to complete clinical trials for regulatory submission and scale up manufacturing to launch into market.

Dr Kaushik said thanks to the accelerator and five years of hard work, VitalTrace is now truly a global company. “VitalTrace has validated its technology on six continents and is collaborating with leading researchers out of San Diego, US – the biosensor capital of the world,” he said. “We started off as the head of an octopus and now we’re a full-grown octopus with tentacles everywhere. What has been key is finding those people who believe in you, like REDI partner MedTech Actuator, whether they’re in your own backyard or overseas.”

Further support through MTPConnect

With MTPConnect’s further support, through the WA Manufacturing Voucher Program and $800,000 funding awarded via our BioMedTech Horizons (BMTH) program, an MRFF initiative, VitalTrace has been able to build its own, in-house manufacturing capabilities. This has given the company the opportunity to produce higher quality sensors and to retain value in the process, instead of relying on international partners or having to move offshore.

Summing up the impact of this further support, Dr Kaushik said: “By causing us to focus on manufacturing transfer in parallel to product development, we’ve realised that this is where we should have been focusing all along. We manufacture the sensors ourselves – an Australian-first to our knowledge – and all the things that we were trying to achieve through science, we’re actually achieving through manufacturing now.”