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Morpheus Medical: Co-founder shares insights on securing funding and managing costs

Christina Hernandez Sherwood, eMed Editor, MedCity News

With the goal of revolutionizing cardiac MRI, Morpheus Medical has developed software that takes the process from three hours to about 20 minutes. The company was launched about a year and a half ago when entrepreneurs who wanted to use computational processing to help with the diagnosis of disease came together with radiologists from Stanford University to commercialize the product.

A Morpheus Medical co-founder, John Axerio-Cilies, presented the product at the FutureMed conference last month. Here are his tips for success as a life science entrepreneur:

Find the unmet need – That’s where aspiring entrepreneurs should start as they develop their life science company, Axerio-Cilies said. Is the need big enough that stakeholders will spend money trying to resolve it? For Morpheus Medical, the need was clear in the work of the company’s medical co-founders. The radiologists knew traditional MRI produced great information, Axerio-Cilies said, but the process took too long and wasn’t optimal for their workflow. 

Strive for funding success – While it’s tough to raise money for medical devices, the entrepreneurs at Morpheus Medical played up the software aspect of their product. Investors in the Bay Area are more familiar with funding software companies, Axerio-Cilies said, so that helped their cause. Another bonus: the company already had clinical trials and data from their co-founders’ work at Stanford to help prove their worth to investors. For entrepreneurs seeking funding in this space, Axerio-Cilies said any clinical data they can get through grants or collaborations with hospitals and academic centers would help alleviate some investor concerns.

Balance costs with need – It might seem ideal to hire a full-time employee to handle regulatory issues. But when the price tag is $180,000 and up, Axerio-Cilies said, it makes sense to outsource. “That’s a lot of money for startups,” he said. Morpheus Medical pays a fraction of that cost to a consultant who works with them about one day a week. But Axerio-Cilies said the company might consider hiring someone full-time for this position when they add more products.

Prepare for steep costs and time sucks – It’s important for life science entrepreneurs to understand the costs involved in legal services, intellectual property issues and the recruiting process. Axerio-Cilies suggested entrepreneurs try to arrange a deal with legal counsel for fixed costs on services such as contracts. And on intellectual property, he said, try to find a consultant who is open to working with startups and would consider deferring costs.  “Not only the cost,” Axerio-Cilies said, “but the time it takes to do those things has been hard for us.” Recruiting specialized software developers has taken the company nearly six months. “The overhead in recruiting is tough at the moment,” he said.

Photo: John Axerio-Cilies

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