In the summer of 2012, Raleigh’s Ginny Porowski entered Groundwork Labs as the inventor of the GoGown. She had filed patents on her new disposable isolation gown in 2009 and was looking to get the product to market.
This was not a website launch or app release. Commercialization was different here. I’ve watched several health care entrepreneurs struggle on their way to market as they deal with the industry’s web of buyers, manufacturers, distributors, influencers, regulators, and so on.
So after considering the options, Ginny, who also has a counseling and consulting practice in Raleigh, chose to work with Edison Nation Medical to commercialize the GoGown.
Edison Nation Medical, in turn, has now closed a licensing agreement with Medline, the largest privately held manufacturer and distributor of health care and surgical products in the US. Medline will be adding the GoGown to its line of over 350,000 products, which are sold to hospitals and health care facilities throughout the US.
So let’s sort through the players and relationships involved to see how this came together.
But before that, let’s address why you swear you’ve heard that last name before. You’re either really into solid state physics, or you’re familiar with Ginny’s daughter, Avelist CEO Jody Porowski, who we’ve covered before.
Back to the GoGown, from the beginning.
Ginny is a nurse and knew that hospital-acquired infections (HAIs), were a problem. She also saw that hospital waste bins were overflowing after the disposal of just three or four of the gowns that physicians, nurses, and loved ones throw away after visiting a patient in isolation. When these gowns stick out of trash bins, contaminants may be exposed, potentially spreading HAIs.
So Ginny created a new isolation gown with a built in interior wrapper. When the gown is removed, it’s wound up and sealed in the wrapper, becoming a more compact and contained piece of trash. Waste overflow — and the risk of spreading contaminants throughout the hospital — is reduced.
By the time Ginny entered Groudwork Labs in 2012, she had filed a patent on the interior GoGown wrapper and partnered with Lisa Bourget, a health care product management specialist, to develop a commercialization strategy. While at Groudwork, they learned about Edison Nation Medical.
Edison Nation (sans Medical) acts as a channel to commercialization for inventors of consumer products. In July 2012, Edison Nation and Carolinas HealthCare System formed Edison Nation Medical, the same type of channel for medical products.
I talked to Blake Marler of Charlotte-based Edison Nation Medical about how they work with inventors like Ginny.
Blake told me that inventors come to them at many different stages.
In the case of the GoGown, Ginny already had patents and feedback from experts in infection control and environmental services. Ginny told me that she had tapped into Triangle-area expertise and resources at RTP and the NC State College of Textiles.
Some submissions to Edison Nation Medical, though, are little more than back-of-the-envelope drawings.
All submissions go through a vetting process, which includes a clinical efficacy round and feedback from purchasers at Carolinas HealthCare System on the availability of competing medical products.
Once Edison Nation Medical decides to help commercialize a product, it’s often through a licensing agreement, such as the one established with Medline for the GoGown.
The involvement of the inventor once a licensing agreement is achieved is determined on a case-by-case basis.
According to Ginny and Blake, Ginny assigned her patents to Edison Nation Medical and will receive licensing royalties.
Blake told me, “It’s really exciting to think that Ginny’s idea may well become the standard of care here.”
I asked Ginny why she decided to go through Edison Nation Medical.
She said that when she saw the problem and a potential solution to the spread of HAIs, she viewed it as a responsibility to bring the GoGown to market; Edison Nation Medical made it easier for her to get there.
“It can be very difficult for individuals to break into the medical invention space. Lots of people have great ideas but don’t press through to get them commercialized because of all the barriers…Edison Nation Medical helps break down those barriers,” Ginny told me.