By Scott Meacham
Kidney dialysis is a life-saver for patients with end-stage renal disease.
When the kidneys can no longer clean waste products out of the body, dialysis can add years to a person’s life expectancy and for kidney transplant candidates, can help buy time until a kidney transplant becomes available.
However, most dialysis in the U.S. is hemodialysis, which involves removing and cleansing the blood outside the body and usually must be performed in dialysis centers. Hemodialysis typically requires three visits a week that last about four hours each. With the time and logistics demands, as well as the medical requirements, patients in hemodialysis find it costly and very difficult, if not impossible to live normal lives.
Peritoneal dialysis is another option for patients. This therapy cleans the blood inside the body without using any needles or extracting any blood, so the treatment can be conducted in-home. However, current peritoneal dialysis devices are complicated for the patient to use, require considerable patient training and support from medical personnel, and require patients to be stationary during long hours of dialysis.
Simergent (https://www.simergent.com), an Oklahoma startup based in Oklahoma City, is developing an affordable, in-home peritoneal dialysis device that fills the gap in currently available dialysis systems.
“Simergent is committed to putting patients’ needs first,” said Steve Lindo, Simergent co-founder and CEO.
“Patients who have to go to dialysis clinics often can’t live the lives they want,” Lindo said. “When they are connected to a machine for four hours in the middle of every other day, they can’t go to work to provide for their families. They can’t take care of their kids or play with their grandkids or go to a football game when they’re sitting in a dialysis clinic. We want to give them back their hours, days, and weeks — as well as their lives.”
Recent and anticipated changes in Medicare reimbursement are encouraging home dialysis, and many patients say they would prefer home dialysis if they were given a choice. That’s good, because 1 percent of the Medicare population use dialysis, but 7 percent of the Medicare budget goes toward these costs.
“Home dialysis can save Medicare about $20,000 per patient per year,” Lindo said, “although it’s the human element that matters.”
Simergent’s Archimedes home peritoneal dialysis system delivers a sugar and electrolyte solution into a patient’s abdomen through a port in the belly. After about an hour and a half, the solution, carrying toxins and waste is drawn back out, then repeated again several times until the blood is fully cleansed. The cycle can be completed at night, while the patient is sleeping. When they wake up in the morning, the therapy is finished.
“Or,” Lindo said, “they can start their dialysis in their living room while they watch TV and finish up in their bedroom while they sleep, for those who are prescribed longer treatments. The machine is on wheels and portable, so patients conducting dialysis can move around and do whatever they normally do at home. Our machine is designed to be safe and friendly to patients with easy-to-follow pictorial touch screen instructions.” Simergent expects FDA approval within less than two years.
Lindo and Simergent co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Rick Pendergraft, Ph.D. are passionate about removing many of the limitations kidney dialysis forces on patients. They are developing a less costly more user-friendly option that addresses what dialysis patients want — to receive life-saving treatment at home — and live a normal life.
Simergent is another example of a biotech startup with a great technology and a big heart.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org