Oxford: Medical products get £230k funding

As part of a £230,000 funding round, the MedInnovate group of business angels from Oxford Investment Opportunity Network (OION) has provided £115,000 of new funding to APA Parafricta, a developer of low-friction products for the medical sector. The balance of the new investment has come from the Bank of Scotland Corporate’s Growth Capital team under the unique Co-Investment Programme arrangement between the Bank and OION.

Proven to be significantly more effective than the traditionally used silk, but much more durable and washable at high temperatures, Parafricta fabric has the properties required for repeated use in demanding medical situations. Garments and bedding made from the unique ultra low-friction fabric are used to protect patient skin when there is a risk of damage to highly sensitive areas, resulting in bedsores or pressure ulcers.

The smooth as ice fabric not only helps to prevent such sores developing in the first place, it also provides an environment in which dressings can function effectively, as they remain in place when subjected to friction. In addition, the woven nature of the material provides an excellent healing environment.

Parafricta is aiming to become the leading brand for low-friction fabric in the medical healthcare sector, just as Goretex is for breathable waterproofing and Lycra is for stretchable sports wear.

To help prevent early skin damage developing into more serious wounds, especially for bed-bound patients, Parafricta has developed bed sheets that provide protection to sensitive areas of the body, legs and feet where the skin can be compromised or where wound dressings may be lost through friction. Parafricta pillowcases provide similar protection to the skin on the face, ears or head.

For more specific prevention and wound care, Parafricta has developed bootees and undergarments. Foot or leg ulcers are a particular problem for patients with diabetes, and the Parafricta bootee protects wound dressings on the foot, especially on the heel. The undergarment provides protection around the buttocks, an area that is under significant pressure when a patient is bedridden or spending long periods of time in a wheel chair.

APA Parafricta CEO George Sampson explained: “When patients have large dressings to treat ulcers or pressure sores, it is very important that they stay in place. The dressings are there to heal the wound – and for nasty open wounds, such as diabetic leg ulcers, this is quite a job. To maintain the correct healing atmosphere and environment, the dressing must not be moved.”

Friction from bed linen is a common cause of dressing failure, so a low-friction environment is extremely beneficial.

Sampson said: “When such serious wounds are exposed, there is a significantly increased risk of infection. In addition, when the dressings come off, there can be damage to the often already compromised periphery of the wound, further inhibiting the healing process.”

As well as the serious issues of patient welfare and comfort, the large sophisticated dressings that are now used to deal with such acute wounds are expensive and take time to apply. When healthcare resources are stretched, new procedures or techniques that can reduce costs and treatment times are welcome. For a patient being treated in the community, new dressings can typically cost between £3 and £5. And when the cost of the nurse to visit and change the dressing is taken into account, estimated as anywhere from £30 to £50 each time, having to renew the dressing only twice a week rather than everyday means that savings mount up quickly. Expenditure by the NHS in the UK on treatment of bedsores alone exceeds £2.1 billion every year.

The new funding is very timely for the company. Three case study investigations have shown the product significantly improves wound care for patients.

George Sampson said: “We have the potential to sell Parafricta™ products worldwide, and are looking to develop a network of global distributors. The investment secured through OION and Bank of Scotland will allow us to expand our marketing activities, including further improving our website for online sales direct to the public. We have had great support from OION, and throughout the process have appreciated how approachable Eileen Modral and her team have been.”

Eileen Modral, Investment Network Manager at OION, commented: “Parafricta’s products have great potential to ease suffering for patients with chronic wounds and we are pleased that we have been able to help with raising investment at a crucial time in the company’s development.”

The Co-Investment Programme was launched by OION and Bank of Scotland Corporate’s Growth Capital team in early 2008. Through the £2m Programme, the Bank will match funds from OION investors in innovative technology companies.

Malcolm Kpedekpo, associate director at Bank of Scotland Growth Capital, said: “Parafricta clearly has enormous potential. And the fact that as the company grows, suffering for many more patients will be eased, is a terrific win-win situation.”