A point-less invention transforms injections

The needle-free Implaject could revolutionise syringes, and it's all thanks to Dr Charles Potter. Russell profiles a small business with a big challenge


Dr Charles Potter started Oxford-based Caretek Medical Ltd in 2001 to develop his invention, the Implaject
TM needle-free injection system

Dr Charles Potter started Oxford-based Caretek Medical Ltd in 2001 to develop his invention, the Implaject TM needle-free injection system

Sunbathing in the Maldives... not the most obvious place to start a new business. But it was where Dr Charles Potter, 37, had his "light bulb" moment: how to give medicines by injection without the need for a traditional needle and syringe. "Having the idea was the easy bit", says the Cambridge- educated engineer, "but turning that into a real business has taken a lot of hard work."

The idea involves a spring-loaded device that pushes a tiny "pioneer tip" through the skin followed by the drug being injected. The clever bit is that the pioneer tip then dissolves in the skin. And with no needle involved, the problems of needle-phobia, cross contamination and needle disposal are all eliminated.

With support from his wife Meg and other family members, Charles spent three years working part-time on his invention in order to be able to file patents and develop a working prototype. A SMART award of £45,000 from the DTI in 2002 was very timely. But when Charles set about marketing it to large pharmaceutical companies they all wanted the answer to a single question: "Does it hurt?"

The answer to that question could only come from a proper clinical study with volunteers to compare Charles' invention with a traditional needle and syringe. But such studies are very expensive and a lack of cash could have killed the venture had Charles not found funding. Enter Lucius Cary of Seed Capital Ltd, investment adviser to the Oxford Technology Venture Capital Trusts, who saw the potential and agreed to invest £100,000.

With funding in place, Charles was able to undertake the volunteer study. And the result? Volunteers did actually prefer injections with Charles' system. Armed with that excellent outcome, it didn't take long for Charles to enter into a number of development agreements with multi-national drug companies.

But even with the rosy outlook for the invention, building the company into a credible organisation also takes funding. Enter Lucius Cary again. Having made nearly 100 investments in technology-based businesses since 1983, Mr Cary is well-respected among the investment community and was able to help raise a further £500,000 for Charles in February.

And so is Charles off to the Maldives again for his next idea? "Not just yet," he says, "although a second honeymoon would be nice. We spent the first one trekking down the Amazon." Like many inventors, Charles finds it hard to sit still.

www.caretekmedical.co.uk; 01865 405 130

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