Vestechpro wants to share the actuality of its customers, to familiarize you with the world of applied research in business and innovation in the clothing industry in Quebec. For this second article of the series, we met Louise Bernard, founder of the Rheabrio company.
Rheabrio: design your own solution
Louise Bernard, the founder of Rheabrio, is diagnosed with sleep apnea in the summer of 2013. Receiving such a diagnosis can be reassuring, in a sense, but it can also become destabilizing. That summer, Louise's life was shaken up, like that of thousands of people before her: tests to find the right respiratory mask, a desire to succeed in integrating the routine of care into her daily life, questions and inconveniences, significant benefits on sleep and health and ... discomfort! " It's hell! " she says to herself.
Far from being defeated, she turns to the comfort accessories available on the market, without much success: none can mitigate both irritation, the feeling of small air leaks and the marks left by them. mask straps on the skin of his face.
It does not take more for the industrial designer in her to get to work to design her own solution to discomfort, that which will allow him to forget the respiratory mask that takes care of his health. Necessity obliges! There is no question for her to give up therapy. It takes countless hours to draw, cut, sew, assemble, read, discuss, test, sketch and start over, in short, how to create what would one day be the Facembrace™.
Collaborations multiply and research and development continues, at the same time as the work of validation, the search for textiles and equipment, requests to regulatory bodies, presentations to potential investors, the consultation of specialists, patenting and user testing.
These long months of bubbling will lead to the materialization of the first idea, to the birth of the Facembrace™, a product sufficiently evolved to be manufactured and marketed.
In the summer of 2017, Louise is looking for manufacturers who can produce Facembrace™, but to no avail. Nobody can develop this product as its manufacturing process is innovative. A major investment in the creation of a production site is required. A reflection on the best practices of manufacturing operation adds to the numerous files under construction while refining the development of the product. This is how the business model of the company is refined and the plant takes shape.
A year later, the first Facembrace™ are manufactured in a brand new factory and are distributed across Canada.
Facembrace™: How to reduce the side effects of a respirator
Rheabrio manufactures and markets the Facembrace™, the perfect companion to the respiratory mask. The latter is used to treat sleep apnea as part of a continuous positive airway pressure therapy (CPAP / CPAP). The use of the breathing mask is daily. Facembrace™ is durable and reusable, the soft, lightweight membrane fits between the face and the respirator.
The Facembrace™ is marketed under two distribution channels:
Online via the web, selling directly to users (BtoC) in Canada
Off-line, through agreements with private sleep-care clinic brands (which are organizations with several private clinics): each clinic benefits from the presence of experts who are in direct contact with patients.
Facembrace™ is for people who use a respirator. If you experience discomfort such as the feeling of air leaks, redness, stroking marks or skin irritation associated with wearing your mask, you could take advantage of this innovative comfort accessory.
Today, about 936 million people in the world suffer from sleep apnea*. Of these, 80% would not be diagnosed, and only 45% of people diagnosed continued their CPAP therapy three years after their diagnosis, among other things because of the discomforts of wearing a respirator on a daily basis. The Facembrace™ is a unique and revolutionary comfort accessory that allows patients to continue their CPAP therapy in comfort and benefit from the many positive impacts of this therapy on their health.
Source: Study conducted in 16 countries and announced in May 2018 at the European Respiratory Society (ERS) annual conference
The Facembrace™ thus reduces both the discomfort associated with wearing a respirator while adding comfort for the user.
The challenges of arriving on a new market
One of the biggest challenges that Rheabrio had to face was having to create a brand new product line that did not exist before. This challenge involved both the product and its functions, as well as the design and implementation of new, innovative and unique manufacturing processes and production methods.
Once this new production line was completed, the Facembrace™ had to be marketed and faced with the challenges of marketing a new product in a niche market, as long as the product met a specific need.
Finally, another well-known business challenge is, of course, the** search for financing** to be able to absorb the expenses involved in starting up and manufacturing a brand new product.
Why work with a CCTT?
Rheabrio started its collaboration with the Cégep Marie-Victorin Center for Technology Transfer (CCTT), Vestechpro, at the beginning of their product design. The company needed to get more** expertise in the field of textiles**, which they could access with the CCTT. The first collaboration was started to select the major families of materials. Indeed, the expertise in the cuts of different textiles has been very useful for Rheabrio to develop the manufacturing processes, then during production in greater volume, thanks to the equipment that owns the CCTT.
Subsequently, collaboration continued by calling on Vestechpro to outsource and start production.
The Facembrace™ project is a very good example of research and product development for commercialization purposes.
The future of Rheabrio
Since the fall of 2018, the product is available on the Canadian market. Rheabrio thus continues to gather the comments and the opinions of the customers in order to always improve their product and their manufacturing processes.
Faced with the successful launch of the Facembrace™, two major developments are planned for the company: first the opening of markets outside Canada, in response to demand from outside Canada. The Facembrace™ will be available for export by 2020!
In parallel, Rheabrio wishes to continue its development by developing a complete range of products meeting all the needs of individuals using respiratory masks. Today, 75% of the masks used are called "nasal", but there are other categories of masks: masks "nostrils", oral or facial masks. There are therefore needs for these different uses.
Finally, and in the long term, Rheabrio wants to exploit the assembly technology developed for its flagship product for other uses.
In December 2018, the Rheabrio team proudly presented the Facembrace™ in the United States for the very first time at the 2018 AARC Congress held in Las Vegas. This was an excellent validation of the industry's interest in entering the US market in 2019.
In March, an international sleep initiative will be held in which Rheabrio will join in organizing the month of Rheabrio sleep. On the agenda: clinics conferences, hospital performances, and training webinars in Canada open to the public!
Vestechpro thanks Louise Bernard for her precious collaboration
Find Facembrace™ on their website: [www.facembrace.com] (http://www.facembrace.com)