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Medical device startup launched by home designer with an idea

on July 27, 2011 Source:

An Ohio startup thinks its male urinary incontinence device could be a big improvement over adult diapers for people who suffer from the condition.

Columbus-based Continental Dry Works’ male urinary incontinence product, called The Pocket, resembles an athletic cup and could easily be removed from the pants and discarded. The new innovative medical device features a layer of quick-drying mesh, similar to swimsuit netting, that would hold the user’s scrotum away from a layer of absorbent material that collects urine and sits inside a semi-rigid outer shell, according to company founder Heather Wilcox.

A custom homes designer and owner of four Tim Hortons fast-food franchises around Columbus, Wilcox hatched the idea for the device. Her background “is a long way from designing male incontinence products,” she admitted, “but design is design.”

Like many healthcare entrepreneurs, Wilcox’s foray into the field was driven by circumstances she’d have preferred not to have come about in the first place. That is, she saw her husband’s struggles and frustrations with existing urinary incontinence devices on the market after the condition was brought on by complications following his prostate cancer surgery.

The leading treatment options on the market — think Depend’s diaper-style briefs — were bulky, conspicuous, noisy and required her husband to buy new pants. “I became exasperated with what was on the market,” she said. “I started to think about designing something that would be invisible to the public but effective to the user.”

So Wilcox started sketching out ideas and doing market research. She pegs the annual U.S. market for male incontinence products at $700 million, though that number applies to fecal incontinence as well. “With Baby Boomers retiring, the senior-care products market is getting ready to explode,” she said.

Continental Dry Works has received a $50,000 grant from state-backed development group TechColumbus and is applying for a $100,000 National Institutes of Health grant. The funding has gone toward producing prototypes of the device and paying for legal services for intellectual property protection, Wilcox said.

A key next step for the company involves contracting with a research firm to conduct a consumer study of The Pocket, in which patients who suffer from male urinary incontinence will be asked to compare the device to other treatments for the condition. Before it commercializes the device, Continental Dry Works is waiting until it obtains patent protection, a process that Wilcox estimates will take 12 to 18 months.

Wilcox hopes to eventually license the device to a consumer products company such as Procter & Gamble or Kimberly-Clark.

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