Thomas Drevhammar, CEO of Neores, with their innovation rPAP.
Thomas Drevhammar, CEO of Neores, with their innovation rPAP.

In 2019 the research group behind R&D company Neores won both the Athena prize and the Medtech4Health Innovation Award for their rPAP breathing aid designed for babies born too early. Now Neores has announced it is taking the next step in building its business – where one goal is to reach the US market – by joining Umeå Biotech Incubator (UBI).
“Neores is an academic spinoff, so our ambition was never to make money or expand. But if we are to reach out more widely with our product we need to become more like a normal company”, says Thomas Drevhammar, CEO of the Östersund-based business.

Thomas Drevhammar, who is the Department head and anesthesiologist at Östersund Hospital, as well as a docent in anesthesia and intensive care at the Karolinska University Hospital, runs a research group that has developed a new and non-invasive technique to provide respiratory support to newborn babies who fail to breathe on their own.

Together with professor Baldvin Jonsson and Snorri Donaldsson, a post-doc at the Karolinska University Hospital, and Kjell Nilsson, a retired anaesthesiologist and inventor from Östersund, the research group has developed its rPAP technology. In many cases it can replace respiratory care – a treatment method that can cause chronic damage to the sensitive lungs of premature babies.

Prototypes are produced in Östersund
Thomas and Kjell were responsible for designing and producing prototypes in Östersund, where they have a pair of 3D printers and a milling machine at their disposal. Kjell was, incidentally, one of two Swedish doctors that invented the Infant Flow system back in the 1980s – still one of the most widely-used systems in Swedish neonatology care today.

The research group’s study was published in 2021 in JAMA Pediatrics – the highest-ranked pediatrics medical journal in the United States. It is the first study to look at the stabilization of extremely preterm infants using nasal prongs and a pressure-stable resuscitation system. The study was based on 250 babies (in seven hospitals in six countries) born before week 28, and it shows that the system led to fewer intubations and is safe.

The rPAP system is manufactured and CE marked by Inspiration Healthcare, UK. It is one of the standard systems used at Karolinska University Hospital and several other hospitals in Sweden. It is also used in England and other parts of Europe but not the US and large parts of Asia. To have a large impact in newborn care it has to be available in the US and other markets far from Sweden and England.

The research and product development behind rPAP is world-class, but for Neores, the company behind the product, there is still enormous development potential.

Want to reach the US market
Thomas Drevhammar is both CEO and chairman of Neores, but his absolute primary focus is on research and clinical work. He accepts that new competencies need to be introduced into the company in order to develop it further.

“Our research group is the best in Sweden in our niche area, and we belong in the top five or ten in the world. The company has never taken in money to conduct research or development, as all our research is academic. We are first and foremost clinicians and researchers working in Östersund and Karolinska. We then use the company to commercialize ideas”, says Thomas Drevhammar, and continues:

“We never intended to be seen or make money, but now we want Neores to become more like a regular company. We need to build a better structure and bring in the right people with regulatory experience, who know how to attract capital, negotiate with major companies and who can get us to the US market.”

“Our goal is simple – to make our product available all over the world. But it is a challenge to get there. It is, as it should be, a conservative and slow-moving market, where every doctor has an opinion about new equipment and resuscitation”.

World-leading company in its niche
Andreas Lindberg is a Business Coach at Umeå Biotech Incubator, and is looking forward to collaborating with Neores.

“Neores is a world-leading company in its niche and its strength lies in its strong connections with the clinic and research. They can spot needs and development opportunities, are good at quickly moving from an idea to a prototype, and have unique opportunities to conduct clinical studies of their products. Not even large companies with substantial capital have the opportunity to do what Neores does”, says Andreas, and continues:

“But going from cutting-edge research to running a company that will succeed in reaching out with its innovations to global markets requires different competencies and a different structure to what they possess today. That’s where we feel we can help Neores, so that they become a stronger player in the market and a viable company with the potential to deliver life-saving innovations to the healthcare industry for many years to come”.