Necessity delivers George’s invention
How a butcher became a paramedic and MedTech Start-up entrepreneur based in Tasmania.
Starting a nightshift with the Queensland Ambulance Service, George Poulos was told by a shaken co-worker that they’d nearly administered a potentially fatal intravenous drug. George could relate to the high pressure situation and that night, he committed to seeking an innovative solution.
When George left his post as a butcher to become a paramedic, he didn’t anticipate becoming Co-Founder and Chief Technical Officer of MedTech start-up, Jay-Nik Pty Ltd. It would be seven years between that late night shift in Queensland and having a prototype in his hand.
With Co-Founder and fellow paramedic Clare Brown, George gathered a team including Business Development Manager, Rob Gourlay, to take his idea forward. Following further research and development, they found there was a genuine global need to reduce medication errors in the pre-hospital and hospital environment.
“Basically, once medicine from an ampoule is drawn into a syringe, there are a number of risks,” explains George. “As a paramedic under intense pressure with a deteriorating patient, for instance, we have to quickly try and label the syringe by hand or tape a broken ampoule to the syringe to capture the medicine information. There might be two or three ampoules at play. Key information can potentially be mixed up and further to this there are medication risks relating to theft or abuse at play.”
Jay-Nik has since patented a medical syringe capable of reducing medication errors. The syringe has an innovative labelling system built in, as well as a ‘Drop & Lock’ feature and anti-tamper measures. Usability trials of the prototype product have received positive feedback in the United States from doctors, nurses and emergency healthcare professionals.
In 2018, the team were successful in securing entry into a well-respected Melbourne based start-up accelerator program known as The MedTech Actuator, propelling Jay-Nik to near market-ready stage. The 15-month intensive program is designed to accelerate and fund MedTech, HealthTech and BioTech ventures across Asia Pacific.
“It is rare for a MedTech to be Tasmanian based, so we were really excited to be part of the MedTech Actuator,” says George. “The field is in its infancy here in Tasmania, so to have this guidance and support was invaluable. They’re backed by a Venture Capitalist and we were the first cohort and first from Tasmania to participate. It was a lot of work and took us out of our comfort zone, but built our business acumen beyond measure. It was like doing an MBA on steroids.”
Having grown up in Burnie, George returned to the island in 2014 and took personal leave at times when Jay-Nik required next-phase attention. Tasmania proved an excellent base to focus on his medical device venture, the team working closely with medical leaders and the Royal Hobart Hospital.
George and Clare continue to work as full-time paramedics in North West and Southern Tasmania respectively, as they push forward with Jay-Nik while Rob continues in management roles within the pharmaceutical industry.
“You can do anything from anywhere these days as long as you have solid networks,” says George. “It might have proven difficult to propel Jay-Nik forward from Tasmania without our involvement with the MedTech Actuator but we’ve since met amazing Tasmanian innovators. To be honest, we’d love more support for this space. We don’t see why medical device innovation couldn’t be far more prevalent here in Tasmania. There is opportunity to grow and lead in this field.”
Jay-Nik are now at a stage where they have accepted patents in Australia, Japan, China, Singapore and the United States, with two pending in Europe and the UK. The team continue to raise funds, now registered with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and distributing shares to fund costs associated with patents, licensing, registrations and research.
“I just can’t wait to see it in use. We’ve done trials in Phoenix, Arizona with nurses, doctors and anaesthetists, as well as another 360-degree research review within Australia with leading clinicians and the feedback has just been incredible. They simply want and need this product.”
It is anticipated a sale is imminent within the next six months and the Jay-Nik syringe will likely hit the market within 18 months. For George, he splits his time between Jay-Nik, the back of an ambulance and studying law through the University of Queensland.
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