INTERVIEW WITH MELANIE AREGGER – CEO AVELO AG
Saving Lives With Breath Aerosol Diagnostics
Diagnosing lower respiratory tract infections causing pneumonia and Tuberculosis is neither easy nor reliable.
Avelo makes every breath count with its breath collector. This non-invasive and novel tool enables doctors to collect a patient’s breath sample at the point-of-care and analyze it with existing PCR tests.
With the results doctors can select the right treatment, better manage the patient in their office, and only refer severe cases to the hospital. This improves patient outcomes, saves healthcare costs, and avoids unnecessary prescription of antibiotics.
What inspired you to start your company?
When I was 8 years old, I put on my mother’s business clothes and told her that I would become an entrepreneur like her one day. My parents ran a hotel, they inspired me. Years later I met my now co-founder, Tobi. He also has entrepreneurial DNA and we shared the same dream – to start a company in order to have an impact on global health. When brainstorming for the right idea, we came across a so-called TPP (Target Product Profile) where the WHO mentioned breath as perfect sample to overcome some of the huge challenges in diagnosing Tuberculosis and other respiratory infectious diseases. We saw this and said: That’s our perfect idea and now is also the perfect time, since it was in the midst of the pandemic in July 2020.
Who would you consider to be a significant influence on you professionally and can you explain why?
I have met many fantastic people on my journey who had quite a bit of influence, but probably the most significant impact came from my husband. He has been running his own company for many years and I have been learning from his mistakes, experiences and successes since we met.
What are the current challenges in the Medtech industry?
Continued slow adoption and limited willingness to change by stakeholders in the healthcare industry e.g. doctors, health insurers, policy makers. In addition, the high, lengthy regulatory hurdles and, depending on the classification of the device, the related clinical evidence require quite a bit of financing, typically from investors who are holding back due to the overall economic challenges/insecurities.
What are you most proud of achieving with Avelo?
A working prototype which successfully worked with first Tuberculosis patients. The user feedback was great, too!
What are your plans for the future, and where do you see Avelo in another 3-4 years?
We are working hard to drive the product development of our breath collector, so we can do the clinical studies with Tuberculosis patients. Thereafter we want to expand towards other respiratory infectious diseases causing pneumonia. In 3-4 years, we want to be in a position where we can help to catch respiratory infections early and accurately, reduce hospitalizations, lower antibiotic overuse and ultimately save lives.
Was there any piece of advice you received during your involvement with the W.A. de Vigier Foundation that stuck with you?
There were many pieces, especially from all the other great entrepreneurs. One that resonated with me was the speech of Severin Schwan, especially when he said: “The healthcare system is very, very slow.” On the one hand, this may be considered discouraging, on the other hand, to us, this is a great reality check and motivates us to work WITH the existing healthcare system, rather than radically changing it.
– Thank you, Melanie!