Pictured: CEO, Jamie Haggard
by Joshua Lindenstein on October 24, 2016
FORT COLLINS — Medical-device startup Green Sun Medical walked away from the MedTech Innovator competition’s top prize of $200,000 last week. But it was another award that came with a smaller $25,000 check that the company’s founders believe might end up having a bigger impact on the company.
In addition to the competition’s top prize, Johnson & Johnson officials awarded Fort Collins-based Green Sun a $25,000 scholarship to join the former’s JLabs incubator, which has multiple locations around the country. Green Sun Medical CEO Jamie Haggard said Monday that the incubator membership, which could last up to two years, should allow his company to tap into invaluable industry expertise as it works toward going to market in the second half of next year with a tech-enabled spinal brace for adolescent scoliosis patients.
“Winning the MedTech Innovator was great for validation and showing we’re on the right track,” Haggard said. “And $200,000 is nothing to scoff at. … The JLabs is almost more important.”
The MedTech Innovator competition finals were held during last week’s AdvaMed 2016, the major industry conference for the medical-device industry held in Minneapolis. Green Sun had been one of 430 initial applicants, a group that was whittled down to 20 semifinalists and eventually four finalists.
Founded in 2014, Green Sun Medical is based at the Innosphere incubator in Fort Collins. Green Sun’s brace goes beyond traditional scoliosis braces that are made of rigid plastic and are aimed primarily at preventing further curvature of the spine.
Haggard likens Green Sun’s brace to the Invisalign line of orthodontics, which use a series of several plastic trays to straighten someone’s teeth. The Green Sun brace applies pressure like orthodontics to correct the patient’s curved spine. The brace is equipped with pressure sensors and is blue-tooth enabled to allow physicians to monitor progress in real time. If the pressure drops, the physician can call in a patient and crank up the brace to continue to provide further correction.
To prevent muscle atrophy that comes with wearing a brace for years at a time, the Green Sun brace also allows enough movement so that users can still do physical therapy and keep muscles functioning and the spine erect once the brace is no longer worn.
One of the major aims of Green Sun is to keep teenagers from having to resort to spinal-fusion surgeries.
Haggard cofounded Green Sun Medical with chief technology officer Matt Thompson, a biomedical engineer who came up with the idea for the new brace, and chief strategic officer Paul Thompson. The latter Thompson, who is not related to the first, practices intellectual property law in Fort Collins. Haggard, meanwhile, has been in sales and management of implants for orthopedic and spine companies for 20 years.
Green Sun has four full-time employees now, plus a handful of consultants. But Haggard said he expects the full-time employee count to grow to 10 to 15 within the next 12 months. The company is already expanding into more office space at Innosphere, which Green Sun joined last year.
Haggard said the recent $200,000 cash prize will help Green Sun cover the cost of filing its patents in multiple countries in Europe and Asia, as well as to help further prototype development.
The cash prize follows a $335,000 round of equity seed funding raised by Green Sun in the spring, and the company is a little more than halfway through raising a $2 million Series A round.
Haggard said he expects Green Sun’s growth to take place in Northern Colorado for the foreseeable future, noting Colorado’s growing medical-device industry cluster.
“We’re seeing a lot going on in medical devices,” Haggard said. “It’s a great place to live, and there’s a great market of talent already.”