The brains that work for the heart

Pocket ECG
Image : Medicalgorithmics

While still at university, Marek Dziubiński developed a passion for algorithms. His “journey of a lifetime” has taken him to the position of president of an innovative medical equipment company that exports to the US. And this is just the beginning

by Kamila Wajszczuk

The device produced by Medicalgorithmics is no bigger than a smartphone. While patients go about their daily routine, the Pocket ECG measures the heart’s activity and sends the data to a remote server. From there it is visible to a physician who can analyze the data on his computer and diagnose the patient. Smart and convenient, both for the patient and for the doctor.

98%
was the proportion of sales revenue generated by Medicalgorithmics on the US market in 2012

The man behind this invention is 37-year-old Marek Dziubiński, president and CTO of Medicalgorithmics, holder of a PhD in information technology. Having done his master’s degree at the University of Warsaw, he went to the Gdańsk University of Technology to undertake research on digital signal processing. At the same time he was employed at an engineering firm in Germany, where he worked on algorithms used in sound recording.

From sound to heartbeat

“That company went bankrupt about 2002 or 2003 and I decided that this was a good moment to do something on my own,” Dziubiński said. Even when still employed there, he came up with ideas that had market potential, so the bankruptcy only prompted his decision. But he realized that sound engineering was not going to be his direction.
“After the failure of the company I worked in, I came to the conclusion that the audio market is not very prospective, so I looked for another field of knowledge that I could work on. I decided to go into medicine, or more precisely biomedical signals processing, or ECG,” Dziubiński said. At first, his medical knowledge was not large, but he worked with doctors and analyzed medical services markets to be able to design what is now the Pocket ECG.

It took over ten years before the initial invention was first sold. Over that time Dziubiński worked with a partner firm, Emtel, which produces cardiology equipment. They told him about the need to use an algorithm in cardiac monitors used in hospitals, but Dziubiński, who was ready to create that algorithm, wanted to find a broader use.

Into the business sphere

Medicalgorithmics was established as a company in 2005. It received financing from a business angel fund from the US, New Europe Ventures, and then from a Polish fund, BIB Seed Capital. “The concept of innovation financing was still at a very early stage at that time,” Dziubiński said. Before getting the first financial injection he talked to a number of companies about his idea, but he wasn’t getting his point across.

Marek J. Dziubiński, PhD, President & CTO of Medicalgorithmics

Marek J. Dziubiński, PhD, President & CTO of Medicalgorithmics

“People who come up with innovations tend to believe that these ideas will be instantly adopted by the world. But this is not how things work.”

Dziubiński sees difficulties as a challenge. “Commercializing my innovation was a gigantic mental journey for me,” he said. He had to change his perspective from that of a scientist who would like to stay away from the outside world and work on perfecting his idea, to that of a businessman. Commercial entities in turn are usually not interested in innovation as such and one of the main challenges is battling the misunderstanding between these two spheres, he explained.

“People who come up with innovations tend to believe that these ideas will be instantly adopted by the world. But this is not how things work – people concentrate on whatever brings benefits in a secure manner, and they do not necessarily want to take a risk and find out whether an innovation can be implemented,” Dziubiński said. “It’s a complicated world that must be understood in order to give your product attractive packaging.”

Going global

With sales across the US and in some Asian countries, Medicalgorithmics seems to have successfully connected the business and science spheres. “Our company is at its global expansion stage,” Dziubiński said. Starting last year, the firm has taken steps to enter such countries as the United Kingdom and Spain, where contracts have already been signed, as well as Australia and Brazil, where talks are in progress.

Not all markets are in the company’s target, at least for now. The key is the structure of medical services financing. But in the future, the structure should be favorable globally, Dziubiński believes. Trends that will support sales include medical services outsourcing and reducing the risk of hospitalization.

4.5%
is the estimated market share of Medicalgorithmics on the US cardiac telemetry market

What is rather unusual for the sales structure of a Polish company, Medicalgorithmics generates only a small percentage of its revenue domestically. The Polish system of health care financing does not favor the sales of Pocket ECG, at least for the time being, Dziubiński explained. There is no will to reimburse the services from the National
Health Fund and patients are not eager to pay themselves.

Apart from entering new markets, Medicalgorithmics also has acquisition plans and has the means to finance them. “We have quite a lot of cash and have finalized a share issue,” Dziubiński said.
To add to all that, Medicalgorithmics is working on expanding its product offer. New products will also be for cardiology use and fit into the same business model as the Pocket ECG, with support services offered. This way they can easily be sold through the company’s existing distribution network. “I think the market can expect new products from us within the next two to three years,” Dziubiński said.

In 2011 Medicalgorithmics entered the NewConnect market of the Warsaw Stock Exchange and recently, on February 3 this year, its listing was transferred to the Warsaw bourse’s main market. Dziubiński believes that going public made the company more transparent and trustworthy. “When we inform partners about the company’s potential, available funds, etc., they can easily verify the information on the internet.” Of course it also makes it easier to raise capital.

Keeping it Polish

There are no plans for a foreign listing though, or any calls for a foreign presence other than sales. Medicalgorithmics is, and will remain, a Polish company, with its headquarters and an R&D unit in the country, Dziubiński stressed. It’s a competitive advantage, both in terms of cost and quality, he said.
“Poland is a superpower when it comes to IT,” Dziubiński said, with many skilled people who are willing to stay and work here. The Gdańsk R&D center of Medicalgorithmics is constantly employing new engineers. No figures may be revealed at the moment, although the firm declares that the number of employees may grow by several dozen over the next few months. This is a must as the company has to cover orders that have already been placed.

New paths

“We have started a globalization process and we have several goals,” Dziubiński said. One of them is to make the servicing model, when the equipment producer offers related services available to physicians, more common in the medical technology sector. The Medicalgorithmics team also has a large number of ideas for new algorithmic solutions. Another prospective segment is big data. The company has a large data base – tens of thousands of ECG transcripts. The goal is to make use of this resource.
Finally, the third long-term goal is to build a global enterprise that is flexible enough to adapt to various markets. Dziubiński believes that the key factor is getting to know local business conditions and working with local partners to find optimal, locally-tailored solutions.

Personally, Dziubiński plans to continue what he calls his journey into the unknown, started years ago when he was still a PhD student. “For me this is the journey of a lifetime, I try to analyze it as it goes and continue to learn.” Every time he encounters a barrier or difficulty, he treats it as an opportunity to learn something new.

 

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