Helping premature babies breathe: high accolades for medtech startup

14 June 2023

One of Melbourne’s most exciting medtech startups is designing a device that aims to empower doctors with information to help them care for babies who are struggling to breathe.

Respiratory distress affects about seven per cent of newborns. Premature infants are particularly at risk, as lungs are among the final structures to finish developing during pregnancy.

Current non-invasive support systems deliver inconsistent pressure to the airway and provide no feedback on the pressure delivered.

Pressures that are too low or too high can result in serious consequences and non-invasive support failure requires intubation and mechanical ventilation.

A group of biomedical engineering and MBA students from the University of Melbourne identified this unmet need while observing clinical practice in a neonatal intensive care unit.

They felt driven to develop a solution and assembled an expert team to design and commercialise a neonatal airway pressure monitor. They secured a research partnership with the Royal Women’s Hospital and raised $2 million in funding.

Just a few years on, Edward Buijs and Amy Yu are continuing this important work as Chief Executive Officer and Chief Technology Officer of Ventora Medical.

“We are passionate about the work that we do because we have the opportunity to make an impact on the lives of neonatal patients and their families,” Edward said.

“By providing accurate and continuous monitoring of airway pressure, Ventora aims to improve the effectiveness of non-invasive breathing support to reduce the rates of treatment failure and minimise complications.”

“Our goal is to improve the health outcomes for these vulnerable newborns,” Amy said.

“We are fortunate to be working with world class clinicians who have helped us to create a product that can have a real impact on the standard of care.”

Edward and Amy with Associate Professor Christiane Theda, one of Ventora’s co-founders

Ventora’s success has piqued interest across the globe, with Amy and Edward named in Forbes Magazine’s 30 Under 30 list, which includes 600 of the world’s brightest young entrepreneurs, leaders and stars.

“Being named in the Forbes 30 Under 30 was an incredible honour and validation of Ventora’s potential,” Amy said.

“We felt a sense of pride and excitement to be recognised among some of the most innovative and impact-driven young people in the Asia-Pacific region.

“While it is great to be recognised for our work we are ultimately working towards something even more rewarding, helping premature babies breathe.”

The City of Melbourne is supporting Ventora with industry connections and guidance through our Invest Melbourne division.

We have recently expanded our team with new TradeStart advisers who help small and medium-sized businesses like Ventora identify and secure opportunities in global markets. The TradeStart network is an initiative of Austrade.

“The TradeStart team has provided valuable support and encouragement throughout our journey,” Edward said.

“The team keeps us informed about networking opportunities and conferences and has provided relevant introductions that can contribute to Ventora’s development.

“They have also expressed their willingness to assist with our international expansion in the future.”

In the coming months, Ventora will continue its clinical observational studies in partnership with the Royal Women’s Hospital, enabling the team to obtain valuable data and insights to further develop its product.

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