It’s not easy to develop a startup before the company’s Class II medical device gets approval from the FDA. Add a pandemic to the mix, and it can be difficult to survive, let alone thrive. Founder and CEO of Velóce Corporation (SmartTab), Robert Niichel, continued to keep the company thriving. His company won a $250,000 Advanced Industry Accelerator grant from the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade to drive medical innovation.
The startup is making headlines and disrupting digital medicine. Recently, TechCrunch featured SmartTab as a Top Pick among thousands of applicants worldwide. InjectTab is Niichel’s latest product, and delivers biologic prescription drugs to the stomach lining through a microneedle inside a capsule.
“We’ve really tried to focus on what the market is asking for with chronic diseases such as Crohn’s and diabetes. There is a tremendous amount of anxiety about needles—you have to self-inject with Crohn’s disease once per week. There is a huge need for TargetTab, MultiTab and InjectTab with a patient-centered approach to better drug delivery,” said Niichel.
Expanding the Digital Footprint
Niichel increased SmartTab’s presence through attending online conferences such as TechCrunch Disrupt, HLTH, and BioPharm America Conference. The fact that people couldn’t meet in person due to COVID-19 made the virtual offerings more important. Niichel interviews medical professionals and entrepreneurs through his podcast which was featured by Wistia as One of the Top 7 Companies Using Podcasts in a review. It publishes innovative industry content twice per month. These strategies helped Niichel make connections in the HealthTech ecosystem while he developed new products.
SmartTab is initiating a Series A capital raise of $30 million and building a manufacturing plant in Northeast Denver to develop three products. TargetTab is an ingestible capsule for targeted drug delivery to the colon, which completed successful pre-clinical animal studies in 2019. MultiTab resides in the stomach for a week while releasing drugs through timed delivery. Several patents are either issued or under review for the SmartTab Ingestible Capsule platform.
Painless Drug Delivery
After a patient swallows the capsule, InjectTab locates the mucosal lining of the stomach. The capsule contains an autonomous system with sensors to monitor orientation. Then the linear actuator injects medicine into the stomach lining through a microneedle. After pain-free delivery of the prescription drug, the needle retracts inside the capsule. Then the capsule passes safely through the gastrointestinal tract.
The benefits of InjectTab include less expensive drug delivery, targeted medicine for chronic health conditions, and getting medicine at home. This product removes the need for injections in a hospital with a healthcare professional. Those with chronic health conditions such as diabetes or Crohn’s disease won’t have to self-inject with a traditional syringe.
Niichel’s vision for the startup kept momentum building during the restrictions imposed due to the pandemic. He plans on getting the product commercialized within 36 months.
“This is not about a job, or just sales—this is a mission to get to market and see people use it. Even with COVID-19, you’re jabbing people with 200-year-old technology. If you could deploy the COVID vaccine in a capsule, that would change the planet,” said Niichel.