As we celebrate the success of Empact Ventures’ 2021 Super Connect for Good competition, we catch up with Chris Bullock, the co-founder and CEO of QV Bioelectronics
Hays and Empact Ventures’ 2021 Super Connect for Good was a resounding success. The virtual final, which took place in November, saw the regional winners go head-to-head by pitching live for the Super Connect for Good 2021 Overall Champion. Chris Bullock, the co-founder and CEO of QV Bioelectronics, was crowned the North of England regional winner. QV Bioelectronics is a pioneering medical device startup developing implanted technology for the next modality of cancer treatment, electric field therapy.
The start of a new venture
A few years ago, Bullock was an academic researcher at the University of Manchester developing next-generation neural interfaces. During that time, he worked with NHS neurosurgery registrar, Richard Fu, who is now also the co-founder of QV Bioelectronics. During their work at the University of Manchester, Fu mentioned that the biggest problem he has faced as a neurosurgeon is treating brain tumors, especially Glioblastoma. During the discussion, Fu explained that electrotherapy for cancer first entered hospital use in about 2015, but the existing technology doesn’t work that well. One example that Bullock provided was the therapy “has an enormous impact on the patients’ quality of life because essentially, it’s an external to the head device, which means that they have to wear this cap with electrodes all day to get the best effect.”
So, in October 2018, the idea for QV Bioelectronics was born. Bullock and Fu realized that all the current issues faced with electrotherapy could be addressed by developing an implant or device that sits entirely within the body to deliver the therapy. The chose to name their device, GRACE (Glioma Resection Advanced Cavity Electric field therapy) which is an innovative implanted device that delivers electric field therapy directly to the tumor resection margins, where 90% of GBM recurrence takes place.
Bullock explained that “as a startup, QV Bioelectronics does not make any revenue as for now we are entirely focus on the development of this medical device.” The device is a class three medical device with the highest level of regulation behind it. With clinical trails expected to begin in 2024, the first step that QV Bioelectronics will need to take is to have the devices surgically implanted, and then proceed with clinical trials; a process that requires a few years to complete as there is a safety margin behind it. “This means that in terms of its metrics, QV Bioelectronics is very focused on technical metrics. Right now, it’s just a research and development organization primarily and everything that is done within the company comes from how well its experimental technology or device is performing.” Bullock added “we’re pretty confident that we are, exceeding our competitors’ performance in this space.”
When asked what he enjoys most about his work, Bullock said “we do some really cool things in our lab here. I think that what we’re doing is very exciting science that can transform the outlook for cancer patients who have some of the most overlooked types of cancers.”
QV Bioelectronic is doing very exciting, interesting and scientific activity that has the potential to transform some other areas of technology outside of its main application. While transforming into other areas is exciting, the core goal of what the company is working on is so important to people’s lives. Unfortunately, it’s going to take a few years before the device will be available, but the potential impact of this device can shape the lives of people and families in enormous ways. Bullock added “it really is a real privilege to be able to work on technology like that.”
Advice for startups
“One piece of advice that is true in pretty much any industry or any type of company is don’t try and do it alone. There is far too much in any business for any one individual to take control of the whole process.” Says Bullock, “so, the real key is to build your team well. You really do have to trust them, give them responsibility, and empower them to make decisions because it’s far too much for anyone to do.”
Bullock‘s second piece of advice: communicate with end users from an early stage. “When you speak to your customers, you will find that they have specific requirements. Some things that you might have thought are important actually may be less important to the user, other things that you haven’t thought of maybe absolutely important” he said.
Bullock emphasized that “by talking to your user, the outcomes will shape the way that you prioritize developing a product or a piece of technology. You need to address those key requirements from the customers and those key technical risks as early as possible to demonstrate that you have a valid approach and, therefore, a valid company that investors can have confidence in.”
The SuperConnect for Good competition
Bullock confirmed that they were delighted to once again be involved in the SuperConnect for Good competition and very proud to have won both the regional northern title and the national MedTech title.
He added, “the competition has been incredibly helpful, providing connections to critical stakeholders and providing an array of prizes that are invaluable to any startup like ourselves.”
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About Chris Bullock, the co-founder and CEO of QV Bioelectronics
Christopher is a biomedical engineer with expertise in medical device design, biomaterials and bioelectronics. In 2018 he completed a PhD in regenerative medicine at The University of Manchester where his research focused on the development of novel graphene bioelectronic devices and the use of electrical stimuli to control cell behaviour. A passionate entrepreneur, Christopher now acts as the CEO of QV Bioelectronics and oversees the business and technical development aims of the business. He is an associate member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.