Q&A with Alexander Dahmani

An interview with Alexander Dahmani, co-founder and CEO of QuiO, about his start-up experience and being named Innovation Champion at the 2017 Accenture HealthTech Innovation Challenge.

How did you come up with the name, “QuiO”?

The word is a combination of liquid, quality and flow which refers to the innovation of creating smart and connected injection devices for better, more transparent delivery of injectable therapies. We like it because it doesn't refer to a specific product or technology. That allows us to build a brand and expand into new categories including software and services.

Describe your innovation.

Through QuiO, we’ve developed the first real-time, connected drug delivery device for injectable therapies. Our product, the Smartinjector™ One (Si One for short), is focused on expensive biologics—drugs that are injected once a day or once a week and treat diseases like Crohn’s, MS and inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.

The Si One uses long-range wireless connectivity to deliver dosing data from the patient to medical professionals. It’s seamless, and doesn’t require any interaction from the patient. So, they use the device, and information about the injection—how much of the drug was administered and at what efficacy level—is sent to medical professionals. This feedback mechanism makes in-home treatments much safer and less daunting for patients.

How did you get the inspiration to begin developing it?

I was pursuing my Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology from Columbia University when I had a eureka moment: I was reviewing the clinical data for a self-injected drug. Everyone projected that it would be a blockbuster so it was making headlines and gathering impressive data. Then I saw it was being commercialized in a glass syringe. And the thought occurred to me that even with a crown jewel therapy, the delivery system was antiquated. My partner and I used a 3D printer to create the original functional prototype. That printer ran day and night for 18 months until we got the result we needed.

What benefits does it deliver to the patient?

Injecting yourself isn’t exactly as straightforward as taking a pill. It’s an intimidating process for most people. How deeply do I insert the needle? How hard should I press the plunger on the syringe? Si One takes the guesswork out of the process. Automating it so that needle insertion is always at the proper depth. And the patient can control the flow of the shot. There’s not a lot of handling. Holding the device is like holding an electronic toothbrush. The patient doesn’t even see the needle.

LED lights show when something goes awry and provides a clear signal when the shot has been successfully administered. When it’s not in use, the device is placed in a charging dock where it delivers alerts and other vital data to the care team involved. We designed the Si One to look more like a consumer device than a medical device, so the patient doesn’t have to look at something on their kitchen counter and be reminded of their illness.

How did you learn about the Accenture HealthTech Innovation Challenge?

I think I heard about it through an email chain back in October of 2016. There’s no shortage of competitions out there, but many aren’t relevant. So, I read up on this one and it checked all the boxes. With the brand integrity of Accenture backing it, entering was a no-brainer. I knew there wasn’t a cash prize. The prize was in getting connections. The people involved in the competition represented all the health insurers and pharma companies I needed to know to develop the Smartinjector platform.

How has being named the Innovation Champion changed QuiO?

It gave us huge validation which is important for a healthcare company that has long commercialization timelines. You need intermediate points of validation that show you’re on the right path. Being named the Innovation Champion is something we constantly point to over the past five months since the finals.

What’s next on the horizon?

We’re hoping to submit our first 510(K) and we’re looking to run a pilot study. Our aim with the study is to quantify how much the Smartinjector and connected software boosts the performance of injectable therapies when it comes to patient satisfaction and medical outcomes.

What advice do you have other entrepreneurs beginning their own start-up journey?

For starters, be flexible with your plans and timelines. You want to have a detailed plan to get you started, of course. But make sure that plan is continually revisited especially when it comes to timelines and strategies. Because those change all the time. And you need to change with them.

One of the best parts of working on this technology is the people you meet. Nearly everyone is looking to help if they can. Never say no to a meeting. When I look back now, I realize that people who really helped us change the game were the ones I met by working my way through a chain of meetings that led me ultimately to their doorstep. I never knew where the meetings were going to take me, but it always turned out to be right where I needed to be.


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