Here's How I Am Revolutionising Fracture Care with 4D Printed Cast
Thursday Jan 26,2023 | IIE News
Meeting The Right People at The Right Time to Start Castomize
At the beginning of 2022, I had just graduated from Singapore Management University (SMU) with a business degree and I was developing a social venture which I co-founded while managing the business development of a boutique software development company.
During this period, I got connected with a team of student engineers from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) through a mutual friend, where they were seeking advice on attaining a good product-market fit for their 3D-printed orthopedic cast idea, especially since they were lacking knowledge in business-related aspects.
In our discussions, I brought up the possibility of 4D printing - an area that I researched for an SMU module - Management of Technology and Innovation. Coincidentally, one of the engineers was writing a thesis on 4D printing for his Master’s degree, and we decided to work together to explore this idea further, subsequently seeking feedback from orthopedic specialists and patients who have sustained fractures. This led to the creation of a series of progressively improving prototypes, a process which is still ongoing.
With some proof of market concept, our team together with SUTD managed to attain a grant from National Research Foundation (NRF) which funded our product development activities for a year, and this helped us to accelerate our prototyping and develop our Intellectual Properties.
With this progress, we were able to showcase our prototypes at Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology (SWITCH) 2022, which garnered overwhelming interest from event attendees.
From the fair, we caught the attention of National Healthcare Group Singapore (NHG), and we anticipate the beginning of our medical trials with them in Q2 of 2023.
Starting from Zero in The Medical Device Space
Leading a deep-tech start-up has been a journey of many ups and downs. Besides losing the opportunity cost of earning a full-time salary and needing to live on my savings, I had to deal with a steep learning curve familiarising myself with the medical devices space, with the nuances and regulations surrounding it. Additionally, with the amount of time, uncertainty, and setbacks involved in technology and product development, things can feel depressing and murky at times.
We made many mistakes along the way, such as being inefficient and stubborn with product development efforts by repeating experiments that yielded minimal results and not doing enough market research to understand the processes in hospitals and medical regulations before trying to embark on collaborations with medical institutions.
Nevertheless, this path has blessed me with many invaluable experiences, knowledge, and friends. Having my team’s work and progress validated by orthopedic specialists and nurses spurred us to press on and realise our vision. Every breakthrough in product development was a big reason to celebrate and brought us one step closer to the market. Another huge source of motivation is from the advisors and interested investors who are supporting us through our journey.
Gaining More Traction for Castomize
A key highlight of my time leading Castomize was being selected to be part of K-Startup Grand Challenge 2022, where I spent fourmonths in South Korea sharing our prototypes with medical professionals, garnering their support, and signing collaboration agreements with advanced materials companies to improve our 4D-printing material.
The greatest takeaway was the opportunity to interact with the leaders of many other inspiring, fast-growing startups participating in the KSGC programme. Ultimately, Castomize emerged as a top 30 participant, and we are invited to spend another four months there in 2023 to continue working with the Korean medical landscape.
3 Biggest Takeaways as an Entrepreneur
- The importance of networking and keeping everyone you meet close and updated on your activities, as you never know what kind of doors they can open for you.
- Know the strengths and limitations of your team by creating a culture of open and honest communications.
- Time management and clear goal setting to stay disciplined, as it is really easy to get off-track as an entrepreneur.
Healing 3.2 Mil Fractures in The Next 5 Years
Looking forward, I have high hopes for our talented and driven team as we already have plans to develop other 4D-printed products in the areas of other medical devices, veterinary orthopedics, and smart packaging. In the next five years, we are forecasting to heal at least 5 per cent of all leg and arm fractures in the Asia Pacific region, which number to around 3.2 million fractures.
Subsequently, in 10 years, we aim to have multiple products which can positively impact different industries, leveraging on our domain knowledge and intellectual property in 4D printing.
Business Innovations Generator (BIG) is a founder-centric incubation programme that is designed to prepare early-stage startups for success through mentorship, dedicated resources, funding, and access to an investor network. Find out more about BIG and our startups here.