In the following recording, Rick explains the power of bioelectronics and it's increasing dominance in the healthcare market. He explains the advancements being made at NuroKor and divulges some of the exciting developments being made across our multiple subsidiaries.
Pete Birch (00:00):
Welcome to Talking Health Tech. My name is Peter Birch. This is a podcast of conversations with key players and influencers to promote innovation and collaboration for better healthcare, enabled by technology. With me today is Rick Rowan. He's a healthcare entrepreneur, innovator and facilitator. Rick's the founder of NuroKor BioElectronics, a UK based medical technology company, specialising in non-implantable, electroceuticals and bio-electrical medicine. The company is evidence-led and research driven with proven healthcare applications, providing therapeutic treatments for a variety of conditions. He's an internationally recognised thought leader and expert commentator in the health tech space and he's consumer lifestyle medicine devices have been featured in Forbes as one of the best healthcare gadgets and gizmos of 2018. Rick's overarching goal is to use NuroKor's innovative, evidence-led bioelectronic technology to create a positive impact on people's quality of life on a global scale. Hey Rick, how are you going?
Rick Rowan (00:21):
Hey Pete, how are you?
Pete Birch (00:21):
Pretty good! Thanks for waking up early in the morning, over in the UK, whereabouts in the UK are you?
Rick Rowan (01:01):
I'm down South in the Hampshire area.
Pete Birch (01:03):
Rick Rowan (01:04):
We've had some lovely weather, or English summer weather - slowly getting into the English summer!
Pete Birch (01:12):
Oh okay! We got introduced through Dr. James Somauroo. I interviewed him for this podcast. He's got his own podcast, the Health Tech Podcast, I think it's called now. And I think you did a interview way back on episode 19 or something of his ones?
Rick Rowan (01:23):
Yeah, [laughs], seems a millennia ago.
Pete Birch (01:27):
Nice one. Well he is up to episode a billion and fifteen I think, so good on him, it's worth checking out.! Hey, so let's jump into it then. NuroKor BioElectronics. What do you do? What's the problem you solve and who's it for?
Rick Rowan (01:39):
So, NuroKor BioElectronics is a company that researches and develops software for biological applications, now bioelectrical or bioelectronics in general, can be anything from pacemakers through to cochlear implants, for that matter. We focus primarily on non-invasive technologies, for the use in areas such as; pain management, neuromuscular treatment, microcurrent - for tissue application, such as wound healing. And it also obviously flows into pain management and inflammation. But bioelectronics in itself is a very, very broad area of science and medicine. A lot of industries call it electriceuticals, because it's sort of an equivalent to the pharmaceutical company but in the bioelectrical space. It's quite broad raised, NuroKor primarily focused on non-implantables for both clinical and consumer products. And it's all software for consumer products and clinical products.
Pete Birch (02:33):
So NuroKor, how did it all come about? Tell us the story that led to where you guys are today.
Rick Rowan (02:37):
My discovery into bioelectrical nerve treatments, such as the humble tens machine, was quite accidental. It was through that process, which is... well I won't bore you with that story! [laughs]. I co-founded a company in Australia actually, that ended up with some global reach. That company was primarily focused on consumer products and the area of pain management, so not dissimilar to what people traditionally think about with regards to tens machines or neuromuscular stimulators. But it was more about the development of the products than it was the technology and it just was time to move on. It had grown to the point where I'd outgrown where that was headed, and I felt that there was still a hugely untapped opportunity for bioelectrical medicine. Companies like Galvani, I'm not sure if you've heard of Galvani BioElectronics. They've had funding through companies like GSK and Google Beverly Life Sciences in up to closer to a billion dollars for R & D in the area of implantables and the applications themselves are still just untapped. Even with the non-implantables, wound care and neurological pain management side, it's still in its very, very infant stages. The McKinsey report recently echoed exactly the same thing. It's just starting and I see bioelectronic medicine or bioelectrical medicine, there is an opportunity there to have a huge impact in global healthcare.
Pete Birch (04:02):
Let's go next levels. So bioelectronics, what's the science behind it all, and some of the technical aspects to help me understand a bit more?
Rick Rowan (04:10):
So electricity has been used in therapeutic applications for centuries, from as far back as ancient Egyptians and Romans per se, where they were using electric fish for treating things like migraine and pain elements. And then you went through the Edison and the Galvani era, actually where medical devices or electrical device are also used to treat everything from cancer through to a range of diseases, as well as symptoms. At the advent of the pharma era, it sort of took a back seat to pharmaceuticals, particularly in areas where things like pain management became mainstream.
Rick Rowan (04:46):
It had a resurgence in the eighties and nineties as the technology and devices got smaller, but even still, it required an expert operator or somebody with knowledge to use them, and then moving a big jump into more modern times, we move into smaller, more compact devices. Now, as I said, defibrillators and pacemakers, these are all using bioelectrical currents to stimulate a certain outcome. When you start to look at things like pain management, or when I started to look at it, what would happen is with tens of thousands of studies of the medicine, you can look at two studies that are using identical protocols or identical applications, for instance for back pain or some other clinical application, and you'll see one that shows significant impact and another which says that it's ineffective. I started to ask why that was, and when you start looking at the different frequencies eliciting different outcomes for different applications, you start to understand that most of the studies, which are single wave form, not all but most, are really flawed in their application in a lot of ways, because what your body might need for just talking about pain here, but what it might need now, as in frequency, won't be just one frequency.
Rick Rowan (05:59):
It might be several different frequencies that it needs to relieve back pain. And then tomorrow we might need something else or in an hour, I might need something else. So you're looking at these single frequency formulations, and they were quite flawed in my eyes. So I start to think about how we might formulate. An example might be that traditional prescription for back pain might be a painkiller and an anti-inflammatory. Something to treat the symptom of the injury and to reduce the pain, there's ways of reducing inflammation through tissue stimulation, as well as the pain side of things. So what happens when you start to combine those together with the electrical formulations that shouldn't have been shown to be effective in that area? We've scaled through thousands, I personally through thousands, of studies and we still do almost on a daily basis go through latest evidence to formulate. So we've created a lot of base formulations for pain management. Then we move into the other areas, such as reduction of muscle atrophy, stimulation of muscle, for particular outcomes. Things like, ageing, protein synthesis for those who are immobile, a whole range of applications.
Pete Birch (07:02):
So you guys focus predominantly on the software side of things? Like what's the product when we start thinking about what NuroKor develops or creates?
Rick Rowan (07:10):
So the software is the heart of it. So yes, and to that the delivery method is the hardware itself. So, I mean, we try to make the consumer hardware as easy-to-use as possible, so it fits into lifestyles. So we've moved from frequency selection into what we call apps. So applications. So on one of our handheld devices we have Pain and then Pain Plus [modes], which has pain and anti-inflammatory type frequencies. Then we've got Training, Training mode can be for athletes or training might be for sedentary individuals. And then we've got the Recovery side. Recovery covering everything from postpartum for abdominal recovery, through to injury recovery. A recovery in essence is not similar across the board, including post surgery, for which we've had some great results. But it is, yeah. We develop the software that goes into hardware at the moment we've launched with a consumer product, but we're well down the development path for a number of both clinical and professional use applications.
Pete Birch (08:09):
Yeah. Okay. So you are focusing on consumer, I guess at the moment, and then broadening out. How does a consumer get their hands on a NuroKor piece of equipment now?
Rick Rowan (08:20):
So we've got a growing number of distributors in the UK. We've also got a growing number of pharmacies who run in-store pain clinics, which actually started so people can trial the product. And it is not currently running, obviously, that's been a bit of a problem at the moment [laughs].
Pete Birch (08:32):
In a non-COVID life, yes.
Rick Rowan (08:38):
In a non-COVID life. Yeah. As well as through other retail outlets, as well as through again, we've got a growing number of both GPs and specialists, particularly in the area of orthopaedics. [Who are] recommending that their patients either use it pre-operatively or post-operatively, as well as for a number of other musculoskeletal issues. The product is also available directly on the website. But keep in mind that our consumer product is just one vertical of our growth technology and we are less than a two year old startup. So we're only in the very early stages.
Pete Birch (09:08):
It's a lot happening in a shorter space of time. And so you're based in UK, but I think you've got a bit of an Australian presence as well. Is that right?
Rick Rowan (09:13):
We do, obviously I am... well obviously I hope I still sound Australian?! I'd be disappointed if I didn't!
Pete Birch (09:18):
Well, I was thinking this is partly an Australian accent, but partly not, its on one side or another. So you're on the fence, buddy. I'm sorry [laughs].
Rick Rowan (09:26):
Yeah. So both parties think I've got a twang now, but that's fine!
Pete Birch (09:30):
Yeah, yeah you do. [both laugh].
Rick Rowan (09:30):
So I grew up in Sydney.
Pete Birch (09:36):
You are sounding more Australian now by the way, just so you know.
Rick Rowan (09:38):
Oh good [laughs], I'll lay it on. Yeah. so I incorporated the company in April of 2018. It really didn't start until August of 2018 when I moved my family to the UK and it kicked off in an AirBnb in Winchester. So that's where it started. From that point to now, we have got distribution in five countries; USA, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, and the UK domestically. I mean, we distribute to many more. We have distributors in those territories already and growing, and we've been very fortunate. Through the thousands of consumer products we've already sold, we've had a hugely positive response with consumers, across the globe. So yeah. Very happy.
Pete Birch (10:24):
Yeah. Nice. And so shifting gears a little bit, it looks like you've launched your own podcast on BioElectronics as well in the health tech space. Tell us a little bit more about that.
Rick Rowan (10:31):
Yeah. So we believe it's the first of its type. We often have, you know, whether it's with pain clinics or physicians or clinicians, we're often having really great conversations, but often the same questions are coming up. There is a huge interest in the science, particularly around the area of microcurrent, which is absolutely fascinating! So we felt the podcast was an opportunity for us to both invite some of these industry experts, some of our science team, as well as other team members to discuss and generally help to, I'm not going to say educate, but to help with the awareness of it (bioelectronics), because as I said, the same conversations sort of repeat over and then the same positive responses. So it was a good opportunity for us to create a platform whereby we could both help educate as well as keep exposure to the science and what we're up to. So let's have some really great engaging discussions with other industry partners in the health tech and science space!
Pete Birch (11:28):
Mhmm. When I think about it, my bag has very much been around the, health tech software side of things, and I must admit not so much on the bioelectronic side or other kind of devices, but you know what I mean around that kind of area too. It's a little bit of an unknown for me. So it's fascinating. I'm definitely going to be checking out more of your podcasts for that. What are some areas that are of particular interest or fascination right now in that space? When I think in my area it's stuff like AI and machine learning, what what's, what's kind of hot in your area right now?
Rick Rowan (11:58):
So that's a very good question, and without giving away too much, it's quite an early development phase for us. The things that you just mentioned will become a primary focus going forward, because what we're all about is at the moment we manually optimise through subjective, if you like. I mean, you could call it objective, but at the end of the day, it is subjective for what formulations are chosen for what applications based off the evidence that we can find for those frequencies or for those formulations. And, you know, even in simplest forms, algorithms around those protocols will be part of the future. And then there's the personalised optimisation. So, there's the baseline optimisations. So certainly a software that's going to play a huge part in the next 6, 12, 18 months. And then going forward at the moment, we've been approached by a number of biosensor startups and established companies, because it's a huge area that is currently moving at pace so that we can look at the feedback real-time and then optimise for the individuals. And I think that personalised optimisation, as well as the optimisation of the app for particular applications. So whether that's for back pain, knee pain, wound care or some other therapeutic intervention. That software, the AI side, the machine learning side, is going to come into play. But as it is across the medical industry, personalisation of pharmaceuticals is one as a sort of a race at the moment.
Pete Birch (13:25):
Yeah, totally. So to round things up a little bit Rick, looking at NuroKor specifically, so I've talked a little bit about the industry, but looking at NuroKor specifically, what are you guys working on at the moment or what can people expect to see from you in the near future?
Rick Rowan (13:37):
So from the consumer side, we are working on some new technology for the sports science side, so training and recovery. New technology that is going to be quite disruptive in the recovery sector, particularly for professional sports teams, that also includes the weekend warriors, as well as the physios who are dealing with it [laughs]. The other one that we are very heavily focused on is wound care. So we've done a lot of economic modelling. Plus there is quite a lot of economic modelling that already exists for wound care applications, both chronic and acute settings, chronic and acute means everything from diabetes, non-healing ulcers through to orthopaedics for elective surgery, pre and post. These are probably the three sectors that are the biggest things that are going to come out of us in the next 12 to 18 months.
Pete Birch (14:25):
Nice one, just as you're talking through some of that there, I started to think, well, that's a pretty vast array of areas, all within healthcare, I guess, or within medicine, but it's everything from, it's such a different, it's not a particular niche, it's quite a broad kind of topic that's resolved through a particular solution. So how does the healthcare industry kind of keep up with this? I would expect that's pretty important for the education around the technology, the evidence, the way that it operates. How does that become more known within the healthcare industry, so that people have these kinds of solutions available to them?
Rick Rowan (15:01):
So if you think about, again, going back to the parallel with the pharmaceutical company. So think about pharmaceuticals, the big pharma companies cover a very broad range, but they've got vertical either subsidiaries or teams, or they've got companies within sub-companies that work within those particular spaces. We have the same. So we have, we have vertical subsidiaries that have specialists and experts within. For instance wound care, in our wound care team, which is obviously small by comparison to some of the bigger companies. But we've got a huge area of experienced working in an area. We are just about to launch an animal product. This one specifically focused for equine and the development of that came from the experience within the areas that are needed there, from both the wound care and the treatment side. Similarly, we've formed an anaesthetics, which is another conversation all together that we haven't covered here. But that has been seed funded by a retired anaesthetist. Who happens to be a bioeletronics expert for, for that particular application. And that is how we are able to do it. It is not "we are going to treat all these things," we are actually here developing within these verticals,specifically for those applications. It's just, as you mentioned, the software for each is going to be specific to those rather than a blanket cover.
Pete Birch (16:26):
Yeah. No, it's, it's fascinating. Look, Rick, I really appreciate it. I'm going to be tuning into your podcast and I'll make sure that everyone's got access to that in the show notes of this one so they can check it out too. And also for any information about NuroKor you'll be able to see that in the notes of this episode too. Rick, thanks so much for your time.
Rick Rowan (16:43):
Wonderful. Thanks Peter.
Pete Birch (16:45):
Thanks for listening to Talking Health Tech. My name is Peter Birch. Go check out the website, contribute to the forum, to listen to other episodes and get in touch with feedback about the show because collaboration starts with a conversation. peak to you next time.