Healthtech startup Hemideina, which recently closed a fully subscribed $10 million capital raise is looking to disrupt a global market already dominated by one of the stars of the Australian biotechnology industry — Cochlear, which today has a market capitalisation of $15.1 billion.
According to Dr Liz Williams, CEO of Hemideina, “We're challenging 40 years of thinking about sound capture, and how to stimulate the auditory pathway. In order to change behaviours, we really have to have quite a compelling evidence base.”
The hearing loss sector presents a massive investment opportunity, worth $1.8 billion in annual revenues and set to grow to $7 billion by 2035, according to Williams.
“Right now, there's over 60 million people worldwide, who suffer from that level of hearing loss that could be treated with a cochlear implant, and in the last 40 years, less than one million of those have received that treatment," she says.
Hemideina’s product called Hera Wireless Implant System, is providing an alternative to legacy solutions.
The technology was inspired by co-founder Dr Kate Lomas' studies of the insect, the New Zealand tree weta, which has the same auditory range as humans, but with a much smaller and simpler auditory system.
The resulting technology is an architectural redesign of the cochlear hearing implant.
Williams lists size, aesthetics, performance as well and less intensive surgery as points of differentiation between Hemideina's product and solutions already in the market.
"One benefit to our system is that we have a very much smaller and more discreet sound processor that sits in the ear, so very discreet, reducing that visible stigma of your hearing disability. And then the other is around human performance, but also around fear of surgery and that rehabilitation program," says Williams.
The biggest challenges facing adoption of legacy cochlear implant technologies includes both access and cost, she says.
"It's a fairly expensive treatment. So therefore, you really have to demonstrate that you're really achieving significant performance outcomes in order to get that coverage, particularly in the seniors category, so that over 65's reimbursement and insurance coverage is a challenge in that market."
According to Williams, funding for female led health tech start-ups, is another barrier for the development of technologies in this area.
“One of the challenges of female founders that we face is, and research came out that in the last four years, only four per cent of solo female founded companies receive capital from Australia. So it really is a challenge for female founders to access that capital,” she says.
Luckily for Hemideina, this has not proven to impede them.
“We just closed our $10 million capital raise, which was fully subscribed. And we had excellent support from our existing investors, as well as some of the new investors… we’re very lucky that people have gone before us, they’ve paved the way.”