Intelliject Co-Founder Says Most Innovations are Improvements on Existing Products
Sunday was a very big day for Evan Edwards.
The Intelliject co-founder — he started the company with twin brother Eric in 2004 — heard from a woman who used the company’s Auvi-Q device to save her son’s life.
“It was one of the best days of my life,” he said before giving a speech Monday on innovation at The Steward School in Henrico County.
When he told the story during the speech, he briefly was too emotional to continue his talk.
Edwards told students about years of dealing with life-threatening allergies to nuts, seafood, eggs and antibiotics. Eating those items can cause him and his brother to go into anaphylactic shock, a potentially fatal allergic reaction.
The brothers wanted to develop a product that was easier to use than the EpiPen, the most common epinephrine auto-injector on the market.
Innovation is rarely a brand-new idea. Instead, he said, most innovations are improvements on existing products.
“That means all of us can be entrepreneurs, because all of us think about things every day that we could improve,” he said. “And that means almost anything you do, from class to sports to theater to music, can contribute to being an entrepreneur.”
Intelliject, the Richmond-based specialty pharmaceutical firm, spent years developing its product. Edwards showed pictures of dozens of prototypes that didn’t make the cut.
In August, the company won Food and Drug Administration approval for its Auvi-Q device.
Auvi-Q is an auto-injector that talks to patients and their caregivers, providing step-by-step instructions of the process to inject epinephrine to treat severe allergic reactions, or anaphylaxis.
The vocal instructions were inspired in part by defibrillators that started appearing in public places and offer simple usage instructions in case someone is having a heart attack, he said.
“The voice prompts came into the product four years after we started work,” Edwards said.
Intelliject has licensed the commercialization rights for the device to pharmaceutical giant Sanofi-Aventis in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.
Sanofi paid a licensing fee upfront and pays royalties to Intelliject on each device sold. Intelliject retained commercialization rights for the rest of the world.
Edwards said sales of the device have been good since the product hit pharmacy shelves in late January. He added that the product was already being discussed and reviewed on blogs for people with severe allergies.
When students came up to speak with Edwards after his speech, several pulled Auvi-Q devices from their pockets to show them off to the man who invented them.
Jacob Geiger is director of Work It, Richmond. He can be reached at email@example.com or (804) 649-6874.
Copyright Richmond Times-Dispatch. Used by permission
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