Nanodropper’s solution to a ‘little’ problem is a big problem
The 29-year-old started Nanodropper, an award-winning company that provides adaptive caps for eye drop vials, a solution to unnecessary vials that she says are the industry standard.
The devices help reduce the drops to 7-10 microliters, about one-fifth of the typical dose, so patients get the most out of their medications and don’t experience side effects from excessive ingestion.
Song graduated from the University of Washington in 2015 with degrees in psychology and biology, and spent a few years working in a research lab. In 2017, she and her partner, Elias Baker, started developing Nanodropper. The following year, Song decided to pursue medical studies and move to Rochester to attend the Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine.
In 2021, Nanodropper won the top prize of $ 50,000 at Minnesota’s most popular business competition, the MN Cup. The company reached the semi-finalist level by winning the student division.
In 16 years of competition, Nanodropper is the first company in the student division to win the grand prize. The $ 50,000 prize is in addition to the $ 25,000 Nanodropper awarded for winning the student category.
When Song and Baker founded the company, they saw it as an opportunity to address inequalities in the healthcare system and provide more effective eye care, noting that people were paying for drops that were largely wasted.
Now their mission is to empower patients and support ophthalmologists.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
How did you choose to enter the ocular space?
It started when I came across an article from ProPublica. (Reporter Marshall Allen) told a really great story of how ophthalmologists, drug companies, anyone involved in eye care know that the human eye has some ability to hold only a limited amount. These eye drops which are commercially available are much larger than that.
These drops were like five times the capacity of the human eye.
What is harmful about having drops that are too big?
This is the eye drop bottle adapter developed by the Nanodropper start-up from Rochester. Contributed
What really touched me was literature, science, it was very clear. Numerous studies dating back to the 1980s have examined the effectiveness of smaller droplets that are just as effective as larger ones.
In fact, it causes fewer local and systemic side effects, as a smaller drop means there is less all over your eye that isn’t really meant to be the target. Then it causes your body to reflex more. So you tear more, you drain more, and you blink more.
What happens when you empty something from your eye is that it basically goes to the back of your throat and you end up swallowing it. It is as if you were taking these medications by mouth.
Some of these medications are things like beta blockers, which can be really damaging to your health if you have any pre-existing conditions. All of these problems have been very well documented in clinical trials.
It inspired me to think about a solution where we could bring some of that control back to the patient.
What feedback have you received from the eye care community?
Many ophthalmologists have known about this problem for some time, and although they had not learned about it in school, they experienced it in the clinic.
The way he presents to the clinic is as if the patient has been prescribed this drug, he had no more drops before the insurance covered him for the next month, so he misses the last week of four weeks. And it’s like a repetitive thing that happens, and then their results aren’t as good because they can’t stick to the drug.
It’s just a really frustrating system to practice, I can imagine. So, some ophthalmologists sent us messages when we started with this idea and a dream before creating a working and working product that we could offer.
They were like, âHey, I thought of something like that back then. I was so busy in my practice. I’m so glad someone is finally doing something like this. We have heard so many stories like this.
I think that’s one of the reasons we’ve had a very smooth trajectory partnering with smaller eye care clinicsâ¦ People are really passionate about this topic because they’ve been wanting a solution for a while. time now.
How did you work with your partner?
It’s really cool to be able to work together. And I feel like our synergy and our ability to exchange ideas and refine them in real time while we’re just having dinner, that sort of thing, you just can’t get into another dynamic – maybe whether we were related or best friends.
It brings a level of honesty that you might not be able to get if you were just building a business with professional colleagues. It also seems very real from the start. Because it’s our life.