Necessity fuels invention of ostomy device

Steve
Steve Bartlett
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Local company ready to take new technology to the world

The OPODD might not play music or use apps like an Apple device with a similar name, but a local company believes its product will be music to the ears of thousands.

The letters in the acronym stand for One Pass Ostomy Draining Device, and it’s a tool for cleaning the bags worn by people with ostomies.

Developed by UPTT Inc. of Mount Pearl, the product’s potential is huge, according to chief operating officer Tony Janes.

“We were getting some support from the (province’s) Research and Development Corporation, and I know in one of the reports I did for them … when we look at it from our feedback and the response that we’ve gotten, from across Canada and the U.S. and the preliminary in Europe, this can very easily become probably one of the largest single exported devices or products in the province.”

It’s said necessity is the mother of invention, and that’s what gave birth to the device.

Phil Rondeau, inventor and a partner in UPTT, had Crohn’s disease and wore a bag after having an ileostomy, where an opening in the stomach wall is made when the colon or rectum isn’t working.

An Ontario assembly line worker, he found the numerous washroom breaks required to empty the bag were cutting into his work life.

He thought there must be something to get him in and out of the lavatory more quickly, and for the process to be cleaner.

But Rondeau couldn’t find a device to meet his needs.

So, he focused on designing one.

He was soon at a hardware store buying materials for the contraption he envisioned.

He used the double-rollered device for four years, until his health improved and the ileostomy was reversed.

“During the four years that he had it, he thought it worked like a charm. It got him in and out of the washroom in moments,” Janes says.

Rondeau moved to Newfoundland and, after hearing his story, some friends here sensed opportunity.

“With his permission and support, we said we’ll take it and see if we can put this into a marketable product,” Janes says.

They researched it and found there was still nothing like it available.

The National Research Council paired the upstart company with the College of the North Atlantic’s manufacturing program. A stainless steel prototype was developed.

“We created a nice, high-end, medically looking device,” Janes says.

They filed for an international patent and started seeking various regulatory approvals.

All were successful and the OPODD was protected, and OK’d by Health Canada, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Union.

With federal and provincial funding, UPTT took the product on the road to a national ostomy nurses convention in New Orleans in June 2011.

The company’s booth, with the product on display and a video explaining how to use it playing in the background, became a destination for convention attendees.

“We were overwhelmed,” says Ken Bruce, vice-president of corporate development.

“Several nurses came down and said this is the most innovation we’ve seen in years.”

After that convention, they took the device to a conference for people with ostomies (known as ostomates) in Reno, Nev., that August, and then made a sales trip to Ireland a year ago.

The OPODD got the same response wherever they went — people couldn’t wait to get their hands on it. The device, which can be ordered online at opodd.com, has since been shipped to 35 American states, the United Kingdom and across Canada.

While its product is in demand, UPTT was told repeatedly by clinical people and ostomates that a plastic, disposable version would be even better.

“With this one here,” Janes explains, holding a stainless steel OPODD, “they would have had to get into disease control issues, cross-contamination and sterilization. (The plastic one) is a direct result of the market saying, we are moving towards single-patient devices wherever possible.”

With the backing of the provincial Research and Development Corporation, an engineering team at MUN was enlisted to design the plastic version — OPODD 2, if you will — earlier this year.

Its patent is now pending and it’s almost ready for market.

What the company needs to get it there is money, and it’s going to sell some shares to raise the capital.

Bruce says they have a good distributor, and the right amount of money will allow them to start manufacturing — as soon as in six to eight weeks.

“Our goal now is a sales game,” Bruce says. “Our customer surveys, they love it. We’ve got to get it to them. … We know the road. We’ve been out there. Now we need fuel behind us to drive fast.”

UPTT is developing other products to complement the OPODD, including a lubricant/deodorizer.

sbartlett@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @SteveBartlett_

Organizations: College of the North Atlantic, Research and Development, Apple UPTT Inc. of Mount Pearl National Research Council Health Canada U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Geographic location: Canada, U.S., Europe Ontario Newfoundland New Orleans Reno, Nev. Ireland United Kingdom

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