I'm here with that Debbie Cantor and amazing client of ours and an inventor of welcome, Debbie. It's such a pleasure to have you here. Thank you, John. I appreciate it. So I'll start just by tell us a little bit about yourself before this idea came to you. I mean, no, no, no one's born and in better. So a lot of times they have a day job, and they're doing something many times related to their ideas, sometimes not. So what's your story before the idea? Got you? Yeah, my background, I'm a nurse practitioner. My background, I was trained at the University of Pennsylvania, as a gerontological nurse practitioner, for older adult adults primarily. I also sat on the clinical faculty for about six years teaching head to toe physical exam for patients of all ages. But I've also worked in a variety of settings, home health care, where I would go into people's homes, conduct assessments for them, treat them. And most recently, I had been working in a Humana based primary care clinic for older adults, essentially synthesized over 20 years of experience as a nurse practitioner, along with some needs to care for my own child with, you know, some complex needs. And I realized significant gap and care primarily for a cap shaped dressing. That was my aha moment initially. So this is something in your case, like a lot of inventors, your normal day job led you to find something was lacking in the field. So tell us how did the idea actually come about from from seeing this need? Yeah, so I had heard that typically, there's, there's one moment that gives you a realization. In my case, I was conducting an exam on an older woman who was living on her own, with blindness from diabetes and an amputated leg. And while I was in her home to conduct a specific exam, she asked me if I could change her dressing on her stump, she had an infected wound. And so I offered to help her out. And I realized when she pointed to a bag full of, you know, wound care dressings that she had to buy on her own at Walgreens, or wherever I realized that there was no good dressing, even for a nurse practitioner who's trained in wound care to help apply. And of course, a patient, you know, with vision loss, mobility impairments, certainly could not apply it for herself. So at that moment, I'm squatting on the floor in her apartment with a bag full of materials. And I realized, there has to be a better way, why can't you have one bandage that's kept shaped to fit over a stump dressing that would just easily in a matter of seconds, be able to be placed instead of having to take you know, square and rectangular and rolled gauze and put them all together. And so that was the moments probably pre 2015 When I first thought of the idea. So it's not just the patients themselves that were having to do this. But even in healthcare settings, even in hospitals, you didn't find any kind of solution that had the shape of this, this bandage, like cap shaped already. Correct. All bandages and the health care either come in a flat format or road like typical road gauze. And so I realized we haven't really changed even with advanced wound care dressings made of different materials. We haven't updated or advanced how we managed specifically cap shaped anatomy when we need wound dressings. And so once I had that moment, I started thinking about every body part that could use a cap shaped dressing, not just an amputated stump, fingers and toes, and of course, a head dressing because of the issue with you know, scalp lacerations, bumps to the head traumatic brain injury, and at which point that tell us a little bit about your prototyping, did you? You know, it's rare, but sometimes an inventor gets it right on their first attempt. Most of the time, however, it's a long process of trial and error while you're trying to figure out what works best. Yeah, this has been a few years in the making in terms of prototyping. I've experimented with so many different materials that actually started off just with a diaper and I really thought well, it's really just a diaper with no leg holes. We need something absorbance we need something fitted. And so initially
I was cutting out diapers and adult undergarments, and then it evolved to, you know, playing around with with different ace bandages, elastic materials. And so we've worked with a number of development firms. And you know, now over the years, I've circled back to thinking about diapers and undergarments. And I actually have a former head of r&d for Johnson Johnson, on the consumer side, who I believe helped develop the diaper for NASA. And he's now helping us source materials and make the final design for it. So it's taken a lot of different experimentation and iterations. And you got a lot of early interest in, in the concept, right? So tell us a bunch of awards. So I know, in fact, you mentioned Johnson and Johnson, they had a quickfire challenge that you won, and some other awards. Tell us about those and where the bank product is being used now. Yeah, so first of all, we're still pre sales. We're at our design freeze now and probably a few months out for manufacturing. But the interest started, really we joined the Mayo Clinic Life Sciences incubator in Jacksonville, Florida. And, you know, it was basically a shared office space, we received some mentorship, I was matched up with a neurologist, Dr. Freeman, who I'm still collaborating with now, during that time, I submitted a pitch to Johnson and Johnson quickfire challenge, provided the link by one of my senior advisors, Tom Dugan, who was former president of Smith and Nephew wound care. So he knows the industry very well. He said, Look at this pitch to Johnson Johnson, this would be great for you. And so I submitted and not expecting to hear back had the opportunity to pitch received $50,000 as prize money. And with that came a year's worth of mentorship webinars through j&j. And it did help open a lot of doors. And you know, with that, we were actually able to conduct our first feasibility study at the Mayo Clinic. And we took air one of our first prototypes here. Yeah, sir. Cap shaped bandage has the absorbent core on the inside a stretchable, nice compressive bandage. And with the funds from Johnson and Johnson, it was able to help us do a test where we had a patient actor to patient actors, male and female. And on a walk in basis, we had clinicians, surgeons, surgical nurses from the neurosurgical unit at Mayo Clinic on a walk in basis test era bandage versus standard of care. And we ran it as a time trial. And what we found was the clinicians were very interested, they had never seen our bandage before. And still, our bandage was three times faster to apply than standard gauze, even though they were used to it. Did it 10 times a day for post surgical dressings. And so that that gave us tremendous validation that we were on to something. Wow. And that's the biggest social impact award that's relatively recent. So tell us about that. And how that came about. Yes. So this was another Johnson and Johnson sponsored event through m two d two at UMass Lowell. They run 10 to 12 week accelerator program for med tech companies. I was one of 12 companies to pitch at this event last week. And you know, they handed out a few prizes, and we received two of the prizes. One was the biggest social impact. And that was by popular vote of the I don't know 50 or 60. People who are mostly investors, other people in the med tech field who were voting after I presented a four minute pitch. judges on the panel were also voting, and it was specifically for wound care med tech products. And you know, I'm thankful I know that we're working on something that has the potential to save lives by by providing a faster emergency care solution. So that that was one of the nice prizes sponsored by a lira health, a Boston Consulting firm. And we also received an award called next level, which meant that we were
chosen to be the company most likely to take air idea to the next level. And so with that, I receive a month's worth of free coaching
from a firm Wow. So you you're in a great position with a lot of mentoring. A lot of
coaching. And for many of my clients that like the funding part is a huge challenge. You want to talk about that a bit. I know, the original, you know, win of the Johnson and Johnson quickfire challenge helped with initial funding. But tell us about the journey since then, yeah, we are still struggling or challenged by raising convertible note round where we're raising $1.4 million. Right now, of course, COVID threw a wrench wrench and funding with the economy. We took that as an opportunity, though, to work on data validation conduct research. And although we haven't pulled in the money for funding that we have wanted to yet, and it's been mostly self funded. I've also continued the circuit of pitching I've, you know, traveled to Texas to Texas a&m, I've received, you know, some non diluted funding, actually funded by an FDA consortium through through Baylor College of Medicine and the Southwest pediatric device Consortium. So I've found alternate routes for smaller amounts of non dilutive funding while I continue to pitch to investors. You know, what I found is that we tend to be early for many of the companies through the VA and the government, I was actually told I was too advanced for one pitch event, which I was shocked by. Yeah, and you know, every time we either receive another award or conduct another feasibility study, it's provided good validation that I can then report to the companies that I've been speaking with. So it's a lot of just reaching out, throwing myself outside, what I thought was my comfort zone. And speaking to more and more people, and me, you've had a lot of success and bed says, That's great to see, I want to know about some of the obstacles and struggles were there for the low periods where you even doubted, you know, should I throw in the towel? Should I give up? What what are the biggest obstacles you faced, or the dark moments, so to speak, in your journey? Yeah, and I'm sure I share this with many founders, they're always dark moments. I mean, this journey is really, truly a lot of bumps in the road every time, you know, take another debt of $25,000 personally to invest to help pay for, you know, whatever it is business wise to help with the prototype or patent fees, whatever it is, you know, it can be hard to swallow. And you think, Well, I had a day job as a nurse practitioner, that was fantastic. I had a great salary. And I knew I was helping people, I do have the potential to help so many more people this way. And so that's what drives me is knowing that I am making an impact. And I received that validation every time I speak with people. And so I know that I won't stop I need to continue with this. And I try to speak with as many founders who are a few steps ahead of me. And I have found that other med tech founders are extremely open to discussion, bouncing ideas, picking their brain has been very, very helpful for me, I know you have to granted patents and international protection under way as well. Were there any obstacles in getting your patents granted? I think the obstacles Well, a are funding, of course, I would love to file more patents than what I have now. You know, I'm limited by that. There's always a question of which country to file for. Do you continue the review process? At what point do you like you said, throw in the towel on a certain element and say, okay, you know, I really need to pick and choose. And so I am thankful your team has helped educate me on that. I've spoken many times to members of your team. And I've been extraordinarily confused by the the process just because it's not my background. And so I appreciate the patience to help walk me through the process. Again, it's you know, I'm having to learn the business side of startup life, how to model out my financials, how to prepare a pitch deck, what the go to strategy is the IP and so I'm having to be a say a point guard and like in basketball, but without having all that knowledge that I need. So and the guidance that you say outside your comfort zone as a nurse practitioner, none of this is normally in your wheelhouse. Have you ever thought of yourself as an inventor before coming up with this idea?
I had, I'll tell you a story about when I tried to be an inventor. And this would have been 1999 2000. And I had just my daughter was born and I was working to nurse practitioner jobs and I wasn't sleeping. And I don't know if it was part delirium or just nervous energy that made me need to create something else. And so I decided that I would invent something, I didn't have the means to hire an attorney, I was living in Philadelphia as a time at the time.
And I decided that I needed to invent a cup that had her drink a beverage cup that had a snack on top. And without having an attorney to help me file it because of my lack of funds. I decided to file it on my own, you can look up my patents and a laugh at it, because it's been cited a number of times. And fast forward, you know, a number of years, I'm sure you've seen the product, snackies and Walgreens and Rite Aid, I'd like to credit myself on that initial idea. But when I did try to submit the final, you know, nonprovisional patent, I received a nasty gram from the USPTO. I shouldn't say that publicly. They laughed at me. And they said, Don't try doing this without an IP attorney, essentially. And so I learned my lesson, that as much as I thought I had a great idea, you have to do it the right way. Which meant Wait, for me, it meant waiting 15 years until I had the funds and a much better idea, you know, could I have made, you know, a quick buck on that idea? Probably. But I feel much better now having waited and doing something that's actually a social impact for patients. So, you know, it was a good learning lesson for me. Yeah. And I love the fact that you're, you're so passionate about your current idea. And it ties in with your, you know, there's not this big discrepancy between your, your your work as a nurse practitioner, and the idea because that work is what exposed you to the need for this. So that's always an interesting part of the journey. What would be would you say is the most rewarding part of the inventing process for you? The most rewarding process, I would have to say, meeting all the people along the way.
My father is 88 going on 89. And he's always said life is with people. And he said that so many times, you know, I'd say yeah, yeah, of course, it's with people. But I've taken that to heart that really, it's the people I've met along the way. And I've really enjoyed speaking with everyone from all different backgrounds, spoken with a lot of veterans, whether they were patients in my own who shared anecdotal stories, other inventors why I've listened even to there's a great podcast by Guy Ross, who talks to all these entrepreneurs, and I've listened to so many people's stories, it's rewarding for me to know that I'm giving it my best shot. And that if I don't do it, I don't know if someone else will. And so, you know, I feel like almost a social obligation to help out. And what I didn't share before is that, you know, the reason why I switched from the idea of just a stump bandage to a head bandage was for a very personal experience. Back after my daughter required brain surgery, at one of the top hospitals in Philadelphia, we had to rush her back to the hospital. And you know, the they don't typically monitor people after neurosurgery. It's not like a cardiac surgery. And so as we were taking her back to the hospital, there happened to be a school shooting in rural Pennsylvania a number of years ago. And at the same time that we were taking my daughter in these, these girls were being airlifted and I realized thinking back on that moment, that had there been a better solution to put on a cap sheet bandage onto each and every child that was monitoring vital signs for them. We'd have such a better solution and faster way to understand the severity of these children and help manage the resources in the hospital. Because I remember the nurses just being so overwhelmed and not knowing where to start. It was just much more chaos than they anticipated. I mean, ers of course are ready for that.
But in terms of social impact, and making me feel like I'm doing my my job as a nurse and a citizen, it's knowing that I could help potentially in some of those, you know, mass casualty events, more like a triage
function you're thinking to the the nurse practitioners and medical personnel can tell, okay, which, which patients do we don't have the resources to help everybody right now. So they have tough choices to make, like which ones? Right dressed. Exactly, yeah. And so what we have, and of course, my son has been our biggest. He's been my computer scientist and engineer right now. He's 19, Georgia Tech. And, you know, due to limited funds for development, I believed on him, he was able to build this for me and time to present to the Department of Defense. So, you know, I'm speaking with various groups related to warfighter brain health, to discuss the use of air technology for triage in the battlefield mass casualty for for civilian as well. But the idea would be not in this format. But what our second patent relates to is having integrated sensors that communicate with a mobile app. And so the goal would be could take a photo of the patient, use some analytics and actually see have the vital signs pulled in from the sensors here and connect. And we're using data science at the back end to help understand the severity of patients. Right away, we would know, okay, and older adults, is that a higher risk, let's say then, a 25 year old because they're more likely to be on aspirin. And so we've taken a very simple cap shaped bandage and use very sophisticated analytics to start to understand how to best triage the patients.
That's, that's amazing. I'm excited for the current state. But do you have anything that you want or can talk about about the future ideas or changes? And of course, as a patent attorney, anything unprotected? I have to advise that to talk about that. So right, what's in store with your stuff in store going forward as well? Yeah, so in store going forward, you know, eventually, we're creating a platform that's not just focused on on head injury, we are using analytics to look at things like pain as well. That's obviously a massive problem with the opioid epidemic. But we're starting initially along the same lines of traumatic brain injury because so many patients with a TBI, head injury end up with chronic pain. So specifically, we're looking at that and using data science to help understand that you're I know for a lot of inventors, you're such an inspiration and your story is inspirational. Do you have any advice for somebody that's early in the journey? Or perhaps an inventor that's on the fence and not sure if they should go forward? Or not? Like what advice would you give your younger self?
That you've learned the hard way? Things that you would do differently? Perhaps? Yeah, I was asked that recently. And on one hand, I would do everything different. On the other hand, I wouldn't do anything different.
You know, the one thing that really held me back was financing to file for the patent, I think the point at which you can decide that you believe in yourself, and you're ready to take that leap? I would do it. I do think that and I've told other inventors that filing the IP is one of the most critical steps that needs to be done. I've seen that when I pitch to investors, they very much want to know, well, what IP Do you have? That's one of the first questions that they ask. And so before you spend time prototyping and creating something, you know, rather spend the money on the IP, even if it's for a provisional patent, at least to set the stage that you're you're starting to have some IP in place, and really look very critically about how is yours different because a lot of people also investors, they will search and look for any other products that might be similar. And so to be able to explain that well, well, one of our biggest things is, well, can't you just use God's and you wouldn't have needed to file for all this IP? And I say, Well, yes, but it's inefficient. It's ineffective. And so really studying the failures of the standard of care, or the standard process. If it's not medical, you really need to know that very, very well. So Debbie, I know we've spoken a lot about you and your journey, and you've had a lot of coaches and mentors as well, but have there been others that have been instrumental to you getting
where you are? Yes, absolutely. You know, I recognize I can't do this by myself on a day to day I'm not funded to hire the people I would like. But it's been extremely validating to me that I have advisors who are sharing this journey with me. I have Tom Dugan, who was president of Smith and Nephew. He's been in the medical device industry for 40 years. And that that provides tremendous credibility. For me, I have a medical director, Mike Flybus, who helped pioneer ultrasound technology, he's an ER physician, with with hundreds of publications on digital health.
And so you know, it's I also have an urgent care physician who's been by my side, as a mentor and friend, Dr. MonaVie, ready, a meet Faora is a serial entrepreneur, I have, you know, out in Silicon Valley, who just brought his mobile MRI machine to market. I've had incredible people who really understand my mission and are helping guide me, you know, I have a regulatory adviser out of Boston, Vicki Anna Stacy, who's who's amazing and has helped get brain
technology to market through the FDA medical sales and Colin ruble. And so I really see that I need each and every sector to help even plan, you know, whether it's planning IP planning direction of the company. So you can be an adventure as a solo person, but to try to go from inventor to entrepreneur, you know, it takes a team. So I'm very thankful to have people around me looks like you can have quite a team and and that's something investors are looking for as well, right, they want to see if you have,
you know, the right team behind the idea, in addition to having a phenomenal idea and having the IP protected. Yes, and it becomes a bit of a chicken and egg battle. Because without funding, it's hard to build a team. And so we've had to be scrappy, capital efficient, however you want to call it, you know, allocate stock options or have volunteers. But it makes it harder to bring on a team, I'd love to have engineers in house. So so really having people who believe in you in the mission and are willing to take that chance to connect their name to it has been incredible. And all of these programs, accelerator programs, you know, through the Johnson and Johnson MTD two program, I have an r&d Director from Ethicon, who who's you know, a mentor, I have a wonderful serial entrepreneur Nancy briefs, who's started and exited numerous companies. And so having that guidance has just been incredible for me, that'd be talk to us a little bit about the early days and the founding of the company.
Yeah, so I founded the company hero medical technologies,
with my partner, co inventor, Sharon Whiteman,
who's who's my wife, she was a Navy Lieutenant through the Australian Royal Navy, she served also at US Naval Station Mayport, and was in charge of logistics support after the Haiti earthquake. And so her background is really humanitarian aid logistics supply. And with my background in as a nurse practitioner, and healthcare, we really were able to merge our expertise in creating our medical solution. So really, what we're going after is expedited delivery of care for emergencies. And so it really takes her Naval Military expertise. She also has a background in software and sales, worked with a startup that sold to GE. And so it was a great way to merge both of their experiences to help deliver efficient care.
Terrific, and you're both bringing completely different aspects.
experience to the idea, which absolutely, definitely yin and yang. Yeah. Oh, that is a phenomenal advice. Debbie, I want to thank you so much for for being here and sharing from your wisdom and about your journey. Thank you, John, because I appreciate you helping me take this exciting ride and with two patents. You know, I never thought I'd be here. So that's wonderful. And more to come. Yeah. Thank you.