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Startup profile: SageTech Medical

SageTech Medical was founded in 2015 by a small team of scientists and engineers. Based in Devon, UK, the company has developed a novel solution for the recycling of harmful yet vital anaesthetic gases. 

Company mission: 

Most of us rarely consider anaesthetic gases in our everyday lives, but we celebrate their existence when we need them the most. Without these gases, we would be forced to suffer the unbearable pain of many unpleasant procedures. 

Unfortunately, however, these gases that are have an enormous impact on the environment. Their manufacturing process is extremely intensive, and just a small share of each administered dose is actually metabolised by the patient in question. The remainder of the dose is emitted as waste, polluting the atmosphere with a global warming potential at least 2,000 times greater than that of carbon dioxide. 

This presents us with a dilemma. How can we prevent an untenable increase in global temperatures without having to sacrifice these gases upon which we have come to depend? 

SageTech Medical is on a mission to answer this question. 

“We are committed to eliminating waste, pollution and unnecessary environmental harm from volatile anaesthetic agents,” says Dr Iain Menneer, the company’s chief executive. “Our mission is to provide hospitals with a safe, sustainable and easy to use solution for the capture, recovery and recycling of these agents, to lower their carbon footprint, and help to protect the planet for future generations.” 

Novel technology enables a sustainable, circular system 

SageTech’s solution captures volatile anaesthetic agents, such as sevoflurane, isoflurane and desflurane, using a carbon filter contained within two reusable canisters.  

These canisters, known as ‘SID-Cans’, are collected when full and returned to their nearest regional SageTech facility. Using its proprietary SID-Lab technology, SageTech removes the captured gases and converts them into a liquid mixture that is sent back to the main lab for purification. The SID-Cans are checked over for quality, before being returned for reuse. 

The liquid waste mixture, meanwhile, is recycled into active pharmaceutical ingredients. These recycled substances can be used as direct replacements of virgin alternatives, reducing the need for environmentally destructive production while preventing the release of disastrous anaesthetic gases. 

“The technology offers a uniquely safe, sustainable and easy to adopt solution to support human and veterinary healthcare,” claims Dr Steve Wileman, SageTech’s research and development lead.

Addressing the needs of the health sector

In the UK alone, anaesthetic agents account for around 2% of the National Health Service’s (NHS) total carbon footprint and up to 5% of the emissions from hospitals that treat acute patients only. Just one bottle of desflurane emits as much carbon dioxide equivalent as would be released during the combustion of around 440 kilos of coal. 

This is particularly concerning when we consider the NHS’ ambitious goals of reducing its emissions by 80% before 2032 and achieving net zero by 2045 at the latest. These targets are not just for show, with the UK’s Health and Care Act having made the NHS’ transition a legal requirement. 

For SageTech Medical, this presents a sizeable opportunity. As the NHS scrambles to deliver as promised, SageTech’s technology could provide a valuable and effective solution. Of course, the company’s offering is not reserved solely for public bodies. Its initial clients include private facilities as well as NHS hospitals.  

“SageTech Medical is an innovative med-tech disruptor requiring public and private healthcare providers to buy into the technology with urgency,” Menneer explains. “Our platform has been engineered to be scalable and deployable into different markets.” 

Collaborative approach to overcoming potential barriers 

“Through collaboration with industry partners and support from our growing investors, we aim to serve the global human and veterinary healthcare sector at pace, to reduce emissions and conserve raw materials from these environmentally harmful yet clinically essential gases,” he continues. 

According to Menneer, the startup’s biggest challenge is encouraging healthcare providers to shift their way of thinking and focus on the rapid adoption of sustainable solutions no matter the upfront cost that may be associated. If they can be convinced to adopt a long-term perspective, recognising the overall benefits of reducing pollution and averting a climate catastrophe, then they may be more persuaded by novel solutions. 

Recognising the burdens it may yet have to bear, SageTech has adopted a collaborative approach to its scale-up. Having recently won a competitive tender, its solution has been adopted by several academic NHS teaching hospitals as part of their ongoing studies on the safe recovery of harmful anaesthetic gases.   

The company has also worked alongside the four largest manufacturers of anaesthetic machines to ensure that its technology is both simple and quick to install. Just recently, it has signed a distribution agreement with Draeger (NASDAQ:DWRKF), allowing NHS customers to access its solution via their established procurement framework. 

In July 2023, SageTech was selected to participate in a cohort of startups being supported by Bupa. The programme will provide financial backing and help with commercialisation, recognising the urgency of providing sustainable healthcare. 

SageTech’s collaborative intentions do not end there, with the company voicing its intention to pursue additional synergies. Future partnerships could include smaller manufacturers, NHS stakeholders, healthcare investors policymakers or regulators. 

Next steps signal leadership in an early-stage market

As things currently stand, SageTech does not feel threatened by competition. The company points out that its safe and sustainable system offers a scalable option that has already been independently validated, securing its early leadership in a market that is still in its infancy. 

Upcoming milestones include a significant boost in UK sales and the achievement of circular economy certification that will allow SageTech’s technology to be distributed in the EU.  

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