Potrero raises $26.6M to help meet demand for its sensor-laden urinary catheter

Potrero Medical—a startup on a mission to help hospitals measure patients’ urine output, the last major vital sign to be automated—has raised $26.6 million in financing to scale up manufacturing of its sensor-equipped indwelling catheter.

The company believes its Accuryn Monitoring System will help intensive care units and medical teams track the progression of acute kidney injuries in real-time, which can affect half of all ICU patients, and cause more than 300,000 deaths annually in the U.S. The smart catheter, which received 510(k) clearance from the FDA in 2016, also provides data on intra-abdominal pressure and core body temperature.

With this latest boost in funding, Potrero plans to build out its data science team, and develop new artificial intelligence tools that will be layered on top of the device platform. The company aims to track kidney and bladder function to help predict a patient’s risk of developing an AKI, and give clinicians hours instead of minutes to intervene.

“The days of ‘dumb’ medical devices—which just reside in the body and do not provide any clinical utility—we believe are limited, if not over,” Potrero CEO Joe Urban told FierceMedTech. “We’ve taken a hundred-year-old medical device, the Foley catheter, and used it to provide a ton of information that’s always been there. But it just hasn’t been processed and provided to the clinician.”

One of the main technological hurdles to automating this data collection has been dealing with vapor lock: where urine can get trapped in the catheter line, create a seal that blocks the flow. To avoid injury, a nurse typically has to physically clear the line by moving the patient or the tube.

Potrero CEO Joe Urban

“It's a deceptively difficult problem to solve,” Urban said. “And it hasn’t been for a lack of trying. It's a tough fluid dynamic problem, but the engineers here cracked the code.”

The Accuryn system sends a gentle vacuum down the line every two minutes, breaking the vapor lock and allowing the bladder to empty freely, and providing the device with high-resolution data on kidney function.

While the AI engine behind the device is still under development, Potrero and its U.S. distribution partner, Medline, have been unable to keep up with demand for just the sensor package itself, Urban said.

In addition to using the funding to increase its manufacturing base, the startup plans to expand to China, Japan, Europe, South America and South Africa in 12 to 24 months. The oversubscribed series C round was led by GT Healthcare Capital Partners and Sonder Capital.

The company also plans to move to a new headquarters in San Francisco’s East Bay area. Spun out of hospital medical device incubator TheraNova, Potrero has recently grown from 20 employees last year to at least 50 plus additional contractors, Urban said.

“We are very excited to be a part of Potrero’s predictive health platform, which has the potential to extend beyond the ICU into areas such as the cardiac catheterization lab and the operating room,” said Alan Au, founder and managing partner of GT Healthcare.

In addition, Potrero has received federal grants for further studies, Urban said. The Department of Defense is interested in the applications of measuring intra-abdominal pressure in the wounded, while the National Institutes of Health is looking to help predict and prevent AKIs in septic patients.

“If you were to ask me what the landscape will look like in five years, I think you’ll see physicians asking not just for clinical data, but also asking, ‘What else does your device do? What information does it provide me?’” Urban said. “There’s a lot of legacy medical devices that reside in the body and do nothing. Where we see the future going is having those same medical devices embedded with sensors and providing clinical guidance.”