Article via Waterloo Record – WATERLOO REGION — For Harry Gandhi, the $1.4 million recently raised in the first round of seed funding for the health-care startup he co-founded is about more than just the money.
Of course, the funds will go a long way toward making Medella Health’s dream a reality … producing a contact lens for diabetics that can measure glucose levels a reality.
But the funds, from investors including Garage Capital, BDC Capital, Hedgewood, 1517 Fund and the Fifty Years Fund, provided Medella with something else — validation.
“I think that was the biggest value,” Gandhi said. “It’s validated by someone not within the company. They’re willing to bet on it.”
Medella has its roots in co-founder Huayi Gao’s fourth-year nanotechnology design project at the University of Waterloo.
He partnered with fellow UW students Gandhi and Maarij Baig, launching the company in 2013.
Based in the Velocity Garage in Kitchener, Medella Health now has 15 people on its team and it’s looking to grow, particularly when it comes to software engineers.
Gandhi says a close relationship with university labs and affiliated research centres has been instrumental in advancing the company’s work.
“It allows us to build these types of technology that wouldn’t be possible in many other places in the world.”
Medella’s smart contact lenses will feature non-invasive technology that can measure glucose levels and relay the information to the user’s smartphone, alerting the wearer to potential problems.
While there are about six smart contact lens developers around the world, Gandhi said Medella’s sensor technology will allow the lenses to last about a month, much longer than those of their competitors.
“It makes the cost to the patient significantly cheaper,” he said.
The company already produced a larger prototype with all of the required functionality and a smaller version with some of the technology.
The challenges ahead lie in integrating all of the necessary technology into a lens and building it in such a way that is scalable, Gandhi said. The startup aims to have a working prototype ready by the end of next year, and the funds raised will allow it to get there.
“This is one step in the journey,” Gandhi said. “It’s definitely an exciting time.”
There are also a number of regulatory and clinical approvals that Medella will need before the product is available to the public.
Gandhi says Medella is looking to the United States as its first market, given the population and the resources that are spent there on diabetes every year.
“That being said, we see that as a starting point,” he said.
Previously, Medella Health received funds from organizations such as the Ontario Centres of Excellence, which provided about $50,000, and the Golden Triangle Angel Network, which awarded it $10,000 in a pitch competition.
Gandhi was also awarded a $100,000 Thiel Fellowship in 2015 toward developing the business.