A new, single-use airways device for anaesthetists has been launched in Australia, with entry into the UK and Europe soon to follow. The development of the "Yeescope" was supported by the Australian Federal Government and the NSW Department of State and Regional Development (DSRD).
The age of pandemic-like disease and the simple need for safer clinical practice prompted anaesthetist Dr Kevin Yee to design a single-use version of the laryngoscope, a tool used in helping to place a tube into a patient's airway during an operation.
Dr Yee, an anaesthetist at Westmead Hospital with 25 years experience in the field, believed he could improve clinical practice with the development of a single-use and disposable laryngoscope. "Given the prevalence of major diseases like HIV-Aids and Hepatitis-C, a product that avoided any chance of infection had to be a good idea," says Dr Yee. The result is the plastic, single-piece and disposable laryngoscope called a "Yeescope".
Kevin Yee had the good fortune to meet Mark Bennett, who operates a successful toolmaking business, and they joined forces three years ago to establish Anaesthesia Airways to bring this new technology to market. "The partnership brings together my clinical and design attributes which complement Mark's technical and business skills," says Kevin Yee.
The device is on the market after three years of strategic development, and it is expected to interest a range of potential customers. In addition to hospitals and various medical practices, it is likely to interest paramedic organisations, defence forces and emergency service groups. Most significantly, the company will be able to sell the product at around a tenth of the price of traditional laryngoscopes.
Having first taken out patents to establish ownership and control of its intellectual property, the company has been working steadily through the process of developing business and marketing plans and obtaining the various regulatory approvals required in both Australian and overseas markets.
In addition, it has established a joint venture relationship with Tuta Healthcare, for the manufacture and distribution the device.
There has been an early marketing focus on the UK and Europe. One reason for this is the continuing concern about CJD, or "mad cow" disease. A disposable, low-cost laryngoscope is expected to generate considerable market interest in this environment. Anaesthesia Airways has obtained the vital CE mark, which allows it to sell the product throughout Europe. The United States is the other major export market that will be targeted by the company.
On 22 March 2005, the NSW Minister for Small Business, the Hon David Campbell, officially launched the "Yeescope", also referring to it in a speech in Parliament. This public recognition of the excellence of the company and its product capped off the key support role played by DSRD throughout much of its development as part of the Bio Business Program.
This support ranged through the many steps taken to gain legal, financial and expert patent advice in the early period of development. It continued through the various stages of regulatory approval, including Therapeutic Goods Administration acceptance in Australia and the vital CE mark in Europe.
Tuta Healthcare has begun to manufacture the Yeescope and is ready to market its product and to then commence its active marketing, first in Australia, followed by Europe and then in the US. It expects to sell approximately 146,000 units within the next two years.