Figure 1. Sam van Boheman
Sam van Bohemen is the Co-founder, CEO and CTO of Nuroflux. Sam holds a first-class honours Neuroscience degree, minoring in pharmacology, from the University of Otago. He is also a Biomedical Engineering PHD Candidate at the University of Sydney, where he developed a new method to continuously monitor changes in cerebral blood flow. This led to him founding Nuroflux in 2020. Nuroflux is a medical device start-up company developing a non-invasive, wearable medical device for the continuous monitoring of stroke patients.
We recently caught up with Sam to ask him a few questions about his work, the future of Nuroflux and his tips for students interested in the industry!
Can you tell me about the type of work you do?
My day-to-day activities vary a lot. PhD related activities include research, device design/development, conducting experiments, writing reports and manuscripts, supervising honours students and speaking with clinicians. Nuroflux related activities include interacting with stakeholders, intellectual property matters, compiling and reviewing legal documents, writing grant applications, meeting with advisors and pitching to investors.
What led you to your current role and how did you get started?
I moved from New Zealand to Sydney in 2018, to pursue biomedical engineering at The University of Sydney. That led to me starting my PhD, which led to a patent, an accelerator program and meeting my Co-founder which really kicked off our commercialisation journey.
Was there anyone/anything that inspired you to develop Nuroflux?
One of My PhD supervisors, Philip Boughton, had the idea for my PhD project. Philip has been instrumental in the creation of Nuroflux.
What are some notable achievements that you or your team have made?
• Participating in the 2021 UNSW Founders Health 10x Accelerator Program and winning the prize for the best video pitch.
• Winning the IDE Group Building Better Futures for Health Challenge 2021.
• Nuroflux was selected to participate in Tech 23 2021, an event that showcased 23 of Australia’s most promising deep-tech start-up companies. Nuroflux won the Addison’s award for the most backable team.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced within your role or field?
Balancing my PhD and the start-up has been very challenging. Not just the workload but also learning to view the technology from a different (commercial) perspective. The world of business was new to me, and it has been challenging but is also very exciting.
What is the most important next step that you’d like to achieve?
PhD: Publishing our feasibility study and completing our clinical safety study.
Nuroflux: Closing our pre-seed fundraising round.
What impact do you see Nuroflux making in the medical industry?
Nuroflux has the potential to improve the outcome of stroke patients worldwide. Stroke is the second leading cause of death. Following a suspected stroke, a patient will have a CT scan to confirm the diagnosis. CT scans provide an imaging snapshot but due to radiation exposure are only performed every 24 hours. During the first 24-hour window, patients will receive treatment and are at risk of neurological deterioration. However, there is currently no way to continuously monitor brain activity and blood flow. Standard care relies upon waiting for the follow up CT scan and nurses talking to patients. This can be distressing for patients and is also subjective. If clinically validated our device will be able to monitor treatment outcome and detect neurological deterioration in-between CT scans. Leading to more effective management of patients, faster detection of deterioration events, intervention, and improved patient outcome.
What advice would you give to readers interested in this field?
Don’t be scared to reach out to people for advice. In my experience people are very willing to help others, particularly if you are passionate. Don’t worry about asking ‘dumb’ questions. Everyone who has been successful in this field started with zero knowledge of the industry. Get involved in all the events and opportunities that are on offer.