Isomark's CEO Thrives Off Chaos and Seeks to Disrupt a Market

Rapidly changing circumstances are just par for the course in the life of an entrepreneur, and Isomark CEO Joe Kremer wouldn’t have it any other way. He says he thrives off the thrill of waking up in the morning not knowing what to expect or what problems he will have to solve.

While Kremer thrives off the chaos, the healthcare industry he has found himself in is working to manage its own rapidly changing environment. The recent push for healthcare providers to cut costs while improving patient outcomes has left many hospitals scrambling to “change or die.” New case-based models of care have invigorated the fight against problems such as hospital-acquired infections, which claim the lives of tens of thousands of people and cost the US healthcare industry over $35 billion each year. According to Kremer, this is a market ripe for disruption, and he believes his company’s innovative product will offer hospitals a new way to prevent these dangerous and costly infections.

With a $1.7 million NIH SBIR award just announced, Kremer and his team of seven inter-disciplinary scientists have secured a significant portion of the funding they need to commercialize their product, the Canary. This device helps diagnose the onset of sepsis, a destructive and potentially fatal infection sometimes acquired by hospital patients. Early diagnosis of sepsis is key to improved patient outcomes, and the Canary allows doctors to detect its onset a full two days earlier than anything on the market.

The innovative product isn’t the only thing Isomark has going for it. Kremer knew he wanted to be involved when he caught wind Isomark was looking for a CEO. He claims, “Isomark had all the investing criteria I usually look at: A great team, game-changing technology, and a huge market.” What’s more, Kremer says, is that “Once we get this out on the market, we’re going to be saving lives, and that’s really exciting.”

Staying on top of all the elements that go into growing a medical device company – from contract negotiations to navigating regulatory pathways – might be exciting, but it’s definitely not easy, and Isomark is grateful for the help they’ve received along the way. Obtaining one of their first grants, a $500,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award from the NIH, was accomplished in part because of a CTC micro-grant that enabled them to hire a Service Provider to assist them. “At the time,” Kremer says, “that was huge. We couldn’t have hired a grant writer because we didn’t have the cash.”

Expert CTC reviewers also offered feedback on Isomark’s proposal prior to submission. Kremer states, “Even if we didn’t have the outcomes we did, I would obviously recommend the CTC. [CTC Service Provider] Kafryn Lieder walked us through the process and helped us make sure everything was in order. All that was extremely helpful and basically free. It’s hard to argue with that.”

Isomark is conducting a round of clinical trials at the UW Hospital this summer, which is just another step down the long path of attaining FDA clearance to sell their device. There’s sure to be more chaos to manage down the road, but if that leads to a shakeup of the healthcare industry and the saving of lives, it’s bound to be worth it.