In the case of Glen House, necessity is the doctor of invention.
A skiing accident during his junior year in college left the 20-year-old House a quadriplegic with limited dexterity in his fingers. He graduated from college and medical school, then finished a residency in rehabilitative medicine.
Along the way, he discovered he needed a user-friendly catheter — and created a medical device that met his needs, but also stands to benefit millions of other patients.
Once manufactured in Mexico, the device is now made in Colorado Springs.
Catheters are medical devices that drain the bladder. Spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, stroke, diabetes, spina bifida and other medical conditions can cause loss of bladder control, requiring catheterization. Some devices, known as intermittent catheters, can be self-administered.
Shortly after his skiing accident, House became frustrated with the existing catheters on the market.
“The first thing they tell you is that you need intermittent catheterization,” he said. “With my limited dexterity, I couldn’t use [the products available]. A lot of the competitors have a catheter in a bag, and I can’t manipulate it, so it wasn’t an option.”
During his residency in 1997, one morning a nurse in the intensive care unit used a suction tube to remove fluid from the lungs of a patient on a ventilator with a tracheostomy.
“She suctions the patient and pulls the tube out, all in about 2 seconds,” he said. “I said … that looks pretty easy to use.”
He asked for some of the devices, took them home, disassembled them and added various features to make it easier for people who need self-administered catheters.
“That’s where it started, and I didn’t know what I was doing,” he said “That was 14 years, almost $5 million and 14 patents ago. I spend about 30 hours a week on it,” he told the Business Journal in May 2014. During the years, he’s created several iterations of the product, building it to its current state, the PerfIC Cath catheter.
Through his company Adapta Medical, House now manufactures and sells his PerfIC Cath catheter. Adapta will soon launch other products, including the mPower catheter.
While developing the product, House faced a large challenge — the cost to manufacture small volumes of the catheters to start with, and then marketing larger numbers to distributors. The medical system requires Adapta Medical to sell its products through distributors.
“Having one of the most advanced catheters drives our costs up,” said House.
Another challenge was money.
“There have been probably five times when this company failed, but I never let it fail. Whether that’s finding different people, moving [manufacturing] to a different country, writing my own check,” House said. “It’s a need I need. It’s a need my patients need.”
But House said he won’t quit his day job as director of rehabilitative medicine at Penrose Hospital.
“I enjoy both tremendously,” he said. “There’s nothing like helping an individual coming from the depths of despair with a spinal cord injury. On the other hand, entering Adapta, looking at manufacturing is unbelievable. It’s one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever experienced.”
The costs of manufacturing moved the process from Guadalajara, Mexico, and later to Nicaragua, House said.
There have been probably five times when this company failed, but I never let
– Dr. Glen House
“Still trying to get costs down, we moved to Tijuana,” House said. There, they developed a good relationship with the contractor, who performed the work at an acceptable price.
“We were still one of the higher-priced [catheters] to the distributors, but we were at least in the ballpark,” he said. He did not elaborate on the costs to build the catheters and the price Adapta charges.
Last year, the contract manufacturer in Tijuana was bought by a private equity firm that wanted to produce only in high volumes.
Not long after that, Adapta heard from the new owners.
“They said you have 90 days, and we’re not going to make your product any more,” House said. “We did build up some inventory before they cut us off.”
House began exploring other locations, including others in Mexico and in the United States. During one of those trips, House put the numbers together and discovered he could manufacture the catheters in Colorado Springs for about the same price.
The Tijuana manufacturer’s costs included profit, overhead and the cost of managing inventory and orders. House figured, “We can take that, put it into our employees and keep it in the United States.
“We can manufacture here with higher quality and controls than we could do it in Tijuana, which was cheaper than Nicaragua and Guadalajara.”
The company now employs eight people, including six assemblers.
A fortuitous meeting
Brent Janaky moved to Colorado Springs several years ago to help take care of his dad, who has multiple sclerosis and who uses a catheter. Janaky had a degree in human biology and a chemistry minor, as well as an MBA.
After moving to the Springs, one night while researching online catheters for people with limited dexterity, Janaky discovered House and the PerfIC Cath.
He was shocked when he realized Adapta Medical was in Colorado Springs, and when he called to obtain his free sample, House suggested they meet.
“That was a great connection,” Janaky said. “He [later] said, ‘Hey, I need someone to run this place.’”
Janaky has been on board since the beginning of this year, and manufacturing started Feb. 1 in Colorado Springs.
“Here was a product that was honestly created by someone who needed it,” Janaky said.
“It’s a whole new ballgame when you have to use it yourself.”