In conversation with Souvik Paul, Founder of CathBuddy
What was the deciding moment in starting the company? Tell us about your vision.
CathBuddy’s origins traces back to August 15th, 2014. Carina, my girlfriend’s older sister, sustained a T2/T3 complete spinal cord injury in a car accident that took the life of her mother and left her step-father in a weeks-long coma. I spent the two weeks immediately following the accident in the hospital with my girlfriend, her family and Carina. That was my introduction to the world of spinal cord injury rehabilitation, adaptation, and catheterization.
At the time of Carina’s injury, I was transitioning from a career in finance to one in industrial design. I had to decide if I would pursue my plans for graduate design school. I knew that the entire two-year experience would be meaningless unless I could use my training to help Carina adapt to her new life.
I never wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I’m here because I believe in the product and the impact that it might have on the health and lives of people like Carina who use catheters every day.
While attending the School of Visual Arts in New York, I focused on design for spinal cord injury. I connected with over 40 people involved in SCI/D (spinal cord injury or spinal cord disorder) rehabilitation along the way – from people with SCI/D, physical therapists, occupational therapists, physicians, and case managers. Next, I worked at Johnson & Johnson as a design strategist and project manager with a focus on consumer medical devices. I continued developing the ideas generated in graduate school on the side. After incorporating CathBuddy, six months later I left Johnson & Johnson. It was time to focus on the new venture full-time.
Catheters were an important place of focus because of how psychologically important they are to someone who has recently sustained a spinal cord injury. Most people don’t remember when they were toilet-trained. When you’ve been in a traumatic accident, that trauma gets played back over and over when you find that you’re no longer in control of your body. Bodily functions you’ve taken for granted for as far back as you can remember, like urinating and defecating, are now outside of your control. The early days of rehabilitation are especially difficult – spontaneous discharge of urine and fecal matter are a reality. I wanted to make the process of catheterization easier. In many ways, I never wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I’m here because I believe in the product and the impact that it might have on the health and lives of people like Carina who use catheters every day.
Even when people use sterile single-use catheters, they have a 50% risk of sustaining a complicated UTI.
The company has evolved since its inception. We started off trying to make catheter reuse safer by developing a standalone catheter sterilizer. Carina was only covered for 110 catheters a month when she started using them, which required that she re-use her catheters. This re-use, we thought, was the reason that she was suffering from frequent UTIs. I surrounded myself with a team of experts, and we learned two things:
- regulatory bodies approved catheters for single-use only – approval of a device that explicitly allows people to reuse catheters would be a challenge; and
- even when people use sterile single-use catheters, they have a 50% risk of sustaining a complicated UTI.
That’s an absurdly high UTI risk for use of a medical device as directed. It suggested to us that there was an issue with catheter design.
Tell me about your customers? What do they need, and how are they challenged in their current situation?
With a physician partner on my team, we learned that no-touch catheter and closed catheter systems helped to reduce contact contamination of catheters. This contamination is believed to cause UTIs. No-touch and closed catheter systems are thought to reduce UTI incidence by 30% in clinical settings. The issue is that these catheters are often four times as expensive as standard catheters that insurers typically cover. The result? Not many people are covered for closed or no-touch catheter systems in Canada and the US.