Why We Invested: Luminate Medical

By Kate Fullen, Venture Investment Associate at Elkstone.

‘Am I going to lose my hair?’ is often the first question asked by cancer-diagnosed patients. It’s a highly emotive question followed by a very difficult period of hair loss for many. The difficulty of this loss is understood directly or indirectly by a huge portion of the population yet, an effective and patient-centric solution for chemo-induced hair loss doesn’t exist. Luminate Medical is bringing a device to prevent chemo-induced hair loss to market. Its Lily Device is patient-centric to the core – a portable, non-invasive compression device that prevents hair follicles from being attacked during chemotherapy.

The Elkstone Venture Club invested in Luminate Medical in February to support the founding team in realising its vision of transforming the chemotherapy experience for cancer patients.

What does Luminate Medical Do?

Chemotherapy attacks fast dividing cells. It a characteristic of cancerous cells however, also of natural cells including hair cells. Because of this, hair cells also get attacked when chemo is in the bloodstream. Reducing the flow of this blood to the scalp during the chemotherapy process prevents the chemotherapy from reaching these hair cells and so, protects them from attack.

Luminate Medical has developed a novel approach to achieving this blood flow reduction. It involves applying low levels of compression to the scalp at a level that is comfortable yet enough to protect the hair cells. Its ‘Lily Device’ brings this method to life. It’s a cap-like device that is potable, controlled by the patient, and connected to an app that allows them to monitor the progress of the therapy.

What got us excited:

The most common and accessible solution to hair loss for cancer patients is a wig – a reactive solution that masks the loss for many. Luminate believes in giving patients an alternative preventative solution that ensures action is taken before the loss takes place. Its mission is to make a preventative solution as accessible as a reactive one by aligning its Lily Device with a wig in both price point and ease of use.

Part of the existing problem is the absence of patient-centric devices – those with the patient’s needs at their core. The Lily Device has been developed alongside patients, oncologists, and nurses who deeply understand the pain points of the chemo process and whose input has underpinned all aspects of the device – from ensuring consistent pressure and accurate scalp compression for all shapes and sizes of heads, to its ability to be worn on the way home from the chemo appointment when chemo is still in the bloodstream, and the comfort of the device at a threshold that is effective for hair retention.

The unfortunate reality is that the incidences of cancer are not reducing but are in fact anticipated to increase in the years ahead. As this grows, so too will the need for patient solutions that make cancer treatment less traumatic. Luminate’s device has the potential to transform the cancer treatment process for millions of patients by addressing a true need amongst cancer patients.

The Luminate Founding team brought us on the journey of understanding this big vision yet at each step of the way could ground their ambitions in clear strategy and meticulous attention to data and detail. The team was formed in the labs of NUI Galway when Aaron Hannon (a Thiel Fellow with an engineering background) and Barbara Oliveira (PhD in Biomedical and Electrical Engineering) were sat next to one another whilst working with Co-Founder Martin O’Halloran (Director of BioInnovate and Professor of Medical Electronics). The three founders spun the company out of NUIG in late 2021, launched right into Y Combinator in the US, and closed off their funding round in the months that followed.

What’s next for Luminate Medical?

Luminate is set to begin clinical trials in the months ahead in advance of its FDA application. These trials are the culmination of years of foundational work and will be key to realising their mission of bringing the Lily Device to patients in the US. Yet, this is only the first step in Luminate’s vision of reaching cancer patients around the world – with both its Lily Device and the solutions in its pipeline addressing difficulties with fertility and neuropathy that cancer patients grapple with.

Elkstone is very proud to be a part of this stellar team’s journey. If you’d like to learn more about the Luminate Medical team or the team here at Elkstone, feel free to get in touch at venture@nullelkstoneprivate.com.  Equally, if you’re a founder with a game-changing business, we’d love to hear from you.

The Luminate team is growing!  View their open roles here.