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Kevin Kelleher, a finalist in the AIB Start-up Academy programme and co-founder of Ostoform, spoke to Rachel Cunningham about being in the country’s top 14.

Ostoform is a medical device that aims to manage peristomal skin complications for people with ileostomies. With roots in University Limerick, the company is currently receiving funding through Enterprise Ireland’s Commercialisation Fund and has won an award at the Seedcorn Investor Readiness Competition.

The third year of the AIB Start-up Academy began last week, and after more than 450 applications were reduced to 22, the final 14 start-up companies are currently completing the provided eight-week accelerator programme. At the end of their eight weeks, the candidates will pitch their products to a judging panel in an effort to win a prize package valued at over €200k to bring their start-ups to the next level.

Ostoform will be giving their final pitch on April 20, where they will discuss the concept that emerged after both Kevin Kelleher and his co-founder, Rhona Hunt, took part in a programme called ‘Bio-innovate’. This national initiative enabled groups of four people, spanning across a variety of specialties, to access a clinical environment. Mr. Kelleher explained: “This enabled us to identify unmet clinical needs, find a solution, and therefore establish potential start-up companies.

“Skin complications for people with ileostomies were a problem that kept coming up as we spoke to clinicians. This area is not a secret; it is a well-known problem. Our product prevents the acidic output from the stoma from leaking onto the skin and, unlike pastes that can occasionally cause the bag to dislodge, this device keeps skin healthy and gives the user the added confidence of knowing that the bag will remain securely in place”.An ileostomy is where the small bowel is diverted through an opening in the abdomen known as a stoma. A special bag is placed over it to collect waste products.

Ostoform is flourishing after two years of development and two successful patient trials that produced “encouraging data”, with a noted 42 per cent improvement of skin complications. Although the company is still pre-revenue, Mr. Kelleher believes that they have received sufficient commercial validation to enable their product to progress and is now raising finance to set up an efficient manufacturing process, with the aim of launching in the first quarter of 2018. They plan to sell and market directly to the user, believing that the prize money would especially come into play from an advertising point of view. As the patient is becoming increasingly well informed, they feel it is crucial to directly target the end user. Win or lose, Mr. Kelleher is hopeful for the prospects of their company’s future: “We are a company focusing on skin health for patients and we have more great product ideas in this area in the pipeline”.