Intermed’s SNAPS revamps eye protection to help eye surgery patients recover more easily

August 7 – MORGANTOWN – More than 6 million people a year undergo eye surgeries and need eye shield to protect themselves during the healing process.

A team from Intermed Labs in Morgantown learned in July 2021 that the shields on the market weren’t very comfortable or easy to use, and decided to improve something. The result was SNAPS, now in beta testing before going to the mass market.

And it only took a year. “A year in the world of medical devices – unheard of,” said Intermed co-founder and CEO Tom McClellan. “Having a product already in the market, from literally a towel to talking to a multinational, in my mind, is amazing and a testament to what’s possible here in Morgantown.”

We caught up with McClellan, SNAPS CEO Joe Duda, Intermed design engineer Zac Hoopes and intern Emily Stanton at Intermed headquarters on the top floor of building 3000 on the Mon Health campus.

Duda explained that the eye shields are made of plastic or other materials but are secured to the face with tape. They are needed after cataract, retina, Lasik and reconstructive surgeries.

Sticking a shield poses several problems, he said. It obstructs airflow, necessary to aid healing. It must be removed to examine the eye or apply medication, which may be necessary several times a day. And existing shields have sharp edges that dig into the skin, causing irritation.

“The special thing about SNAPS,” he said, “is the adhesive anchors that are used.” They are modeled after cardiac leads, but smaller. No tape is needed. SNAPS is transparent and has vent holes and is easily hinged and rotated for examination or medication application. And it sits right next to the skin so it won’t sink in or irritate.

McClellan described how SNAPS started. “When doctors have ideas, they don’t necessarily have the time, money, or expertise to bring those ideas to life, or they don’t have the ability to pivot those ideas to make them better.”

In this case, Intermed was approached by a retinal surgeon in Sarasota, Fla., who was having issues with current eye protection and had an idea that technically wasn’t good, McClellan said. But they started doing some market research, saw that the shield issue is a bigger problem, and could be a low-hanging fruit for problem solving.

So they brought Intermed together to figure out how to improve standard eye protection while taking into account ease of manufacture and market constraints – price and cost of production.

“With a little engineering and a little elbow grease, we were able to come up with an idea that was very unique,” ​​he said, and stayed within the parameters of price, cost and ease of manufacturing to make the future worthwhile.

A photo of a SNAPS prototype shows the development model was gray, 3D printed on the top floor. It went through several iterations to perfect the shape, the size, the connections. Intermed has an extensive medical bench, McClellan said, through its partnership with Mon Health, and they’ve consulted with doctors for suggestions and feedback.

They considered using magnets for the connectors, Duda said, but that was impossible due to patients’ aversion to magnets. This led to the use of adhesive tabs inspired by heart probes. A patient will wear a shield anywhere from a day to a few weeks, depending on the procedure performed. So their tests included showering with SNAPS and other tests to make sure the tabs stick.

And SNAPS is packaged with multiple adhesive tabs to replace for patients who wear it for long periods of time.

Micro-fabrication and 3D printing allowed several test versions. Once they had the design they wanted, the final version was injection molded.

The version they shipped for beta testing is made of medical-grade polycarbonate. It’s transparent but solid, Duds said. The anchors bend but do not break.

Beta testing will last about three months, McClellan said, and they’ll use feedback for any further adjustments, if needed.

Production volume is currently in the thousands, McClellan said, but with 6 million shields a year in use, “it clearly has room to ramp up.” Last week, they spoke with a multinational marketing and sales organization interested in partnering with them.

Duda is originally from Morgantown and recently moved to Winchester, Virginia. He is a pharmacist and MBA graduate who worked at Mylan/Viatris and left that company in April 2020.

After leaving Viatris, he said, he was related to McClellan. “It looked like a very interesting, grassroots, very boutique opportunity.” They come up with an idea, sit down around a table, and do something quickly, unlike a big company that moves more heavily.

SNAPS’ goal, he said, is to find the right marketing or sales organization to partner with or acquire the product so they can focus on their core mission. “Our real mission is to design great products that help patients to the best of our abilities and to inspire young people or recruit people from out of state who are very bright.”

Hoopes was recruited from Pennsylvania. He said he was involved in the early design phase of SNAPS — testing, materials, 3D printing — but then other engineers took over. He leads another Intermed project.

Stanton is a UHS junior recruited at the end of July who is also developing her own project, which we cannot reveal at the moment, by making prototypes based on her original ideas.

Stanton’s internship led McClellan to talk about his vision for Intermed. “If we can attract talent like this who stays locally and then continues to work for us,” he said, “and they spin off products to create revenue to hire them. ecosystem that we are starting to build?

“It’s a very unique place,” he said. “My single goal for the rest of my life is to attract talent like this to West Virginia. … My goal is to create jobs here locally, good jobs, that spark the imaginations of young people. “

They want to fill the entire floor, 12,000 square feet, with engineers and design space, McClellan said.

“That’s why we’re thrilled to partner with Mon Health and hopefully very soon CAMC in Charleston, and serve the 5,000 doctors and 20,000 nurses in the state who have incredible ideas that can help patients. We can do all that here.”

TWEET David Beard @dbeardtdp EMAIL dbeard

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