April 21Interview

Healthy Granulation

How AxioBio Solutions Powered Expansion and Innovation during COVID 

Have you heard about an Indian company that conquered the world in 10-years of its existence? Well, Bengaluru-based AxioBio Solutions is doing just that. The company founded in 2008, by a bioengineering student in his final years of college has captured the imagination of the entire wound care market. The company’s strength is novel biopolymer and the best thing is that AxioBiosolution has created several high performing medical products based on this platform. 

This start-up has established offices in Europe and America and has made a name for itself in the wound care market. So much so that giants of the wound care market Smith & Nephew; Mölnlycke Health Care; B. Braun; ConvaTec and 3M are all strengthening their positions to compete with this tiny but impactful company. Given its success, it has gained a slice of funding from the most coveted leaders in the industry. Axio has raised more than $14 million from Ratan Tata’s UC RNT, Omidyar Network, Accel & Chiratae Ventures. 

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In 2020, responding to the growing demand for healthcare solutions that align with changing realities and challenges of the pandemic world, Axio Biosolutions made the strategic decision to enter the retail space in India with all its products- wound care and Covid essentials. Here Leo Mavely, Founder and CEO, Axio Biosolutions, talks about the expansion of the company powered by innovation and plans with M Neelam Kachhap

Tell us about your journey so far?

 Our journey began as a single category company that worked mostly on controlling bleeding; servicing the military and surgical departments at the hospital. We were the first company from India to design, develop and commercialise an Emergency Haemostat for trauma care. Axiostat is our flagship product developed to reduce mortality due to traumatic bleeding. Then we launched MaxioCel that is based on Bioactive Microfiber Gelling technology for advanced wound care. We took the leadership position in interventional cardiology procedures, vascular closure market, primarily angioplasty procedures which became one of our major segments. To give you an idea of our leadership, we did about 50,000 closures in a year as compared to 20,000 done by Terumo.

We are still a B2B-focussed business in India and what we can proudly say is that we have taken this product to the global market and have performed well.

During the last 18 months, our product got approved in 42 countries and more than a billion units of Axiostat have been shipped. We entered Europe with a focus and serve about 10 European countries right now. We have a local team there. Our other focus has been on the South-East Asia market and it is the second-largest market after Europe for us.

Hemostat was accepted well outside India and we are expecting the US launch of the product this year. We are
very close to receiving the FDA goahead and we will take this product to the hospital segment there. This was before the pandemic. Our story took a break when COVID hit and most elective surgeries came to a screeching halt. The business went back to zero and but now it is slowly coming back. So the hemostat business is going
strong but we asked ourselves is this all we wanted to achieve. That is when our digital business started but I will come to that in a bit.

What is exciting for us is the two segments that we worked on and launched in 2019-20. We spent a significant amount of time and effort on advanced wound care and it is paying off now. One of the product is MaxioCel,
targeting diabetic foot patients. India is becoming a world diabetic capital with millions of patients needing advanced wound care products every year. MaxioCel fulfils a large gap in the market with its combined
hemostatic, pain management and scar improvement properties. It is a Bioactive Microfiber Gelling technology
that accelerates healing through quicker granulation. Approximately 15 per cent of people with diabetes are prone to foot ulcers. In fact, out of 50 million diabetic patients, 10 million are having ulcers and one lakh get amputation because of this. One of the major challenges is treatment time. Bring down treatment
time for diabetic foot ulcer patients from months to a week.

In the last year, we shipped close to one lakh MaxioCel units in India. The CE approval for the product last
month will help Axio with access to the second-largest global market for advanced wound care products. As part
of its strategic plans, Axio will soon be launching MaxioCel in 15+ countries in Europe including reimbursement
markets with multi-million revenues in this year itself. This is our next product launch globally after Axiostat.
Next month we will be launching in the European market.

This is our biggest milestone the CE mark. The European market is undergoing a transition from the Medical Device Directive to European regulations on medical devices (EU MDR) and to get CE certification in the middle of all that is extremely gratifying. We are also exploring FDA certification and a US launch early next year. In a nutshell, we are focussed on building integrated play in wound care advanced wound care, by playing to our strength that is biomaterial technology.

What happened to your plans during the pandemic?
We were limited by the pandemic as everyone else. But we got back on our feet with a lot of learnings
ventured into the retail market. We build an independent brand called RESIST+, a hygiene and protection
range. We invested half a million dollar in research and development in this product segment. Now we are
expanding this portfolio into hygiene and wellness product. So from sanitisers and disinfectants, we have moved on to non-alcoholic wipes, skincare, lotions and hand wash; Resist is a Rs 200-crore brand for us. Soon we will launch 10 more SKUs under resist and then take it outside India.

Currently, in India 30 per cent of the revenues come from Resist. By next year, we can expect a 3x jump in
revenues from this product segment. Imagine in the previous year, we used to launch 4-5 SKUs and this year we
have launched 42, so research and development worked hard to build this segment during the challenging
pandemic. This innovation was possible because of our medtech background.

One of the limitations during the pandemic was the lockdown that brought a lot of sales and supply channels to a
standstill. We focussed on direct sales in hospitals and individual doctors. We took the online digital-first policy last year and made sure to have a digital angle, an online store. Now 10 per cent of our domestic sales come from online channels. We also developed clinical marketing and patient consultation for wound care as a one-stop-solution for patients. We do this in stages-free consultation with our product manager in the first stage. Consultation with the vascular surgeon is the second stage, provide doorstep delivery and dressing is the next stage. Doctors take the call on a hospital visit and actually, six out of 10 patients could be managed at home and avoid COVID-burdened hospitals. We ran a pilot in Delhi which was very well received then we reached
Bengaluru. We partner with foot clinic and diabetologists and even partnered with online firms like e-pharmacy.

This kind of tele-outreach was new to us but we like helping patients with online consult, phone call, and on-call nursing staff. This segment contributes 12 per cent domestic revenues and we will invest more in this to take it to 25-30 per cent of our domestic revenue. We are cautious also as we plan to grow as per demand. We will put more people on the road after March 2021.

Tell us about your pet care segment?
We ventured into the veterinary wound management space with the launch of the SureKlot range of products this week. The veterinary market is often neglected without any medical products to treat common injuries. We are glad to address this by providing worldclass products to manage bleeding and infected wounds quickly. We were already exporting this product to Europe as we started manufacturing this product about 18-months back. This is a completely new segment in India, as a modern medicine based animal stop bleeding product does not exist.

We pilot in around 15 vet hospitals in India and work with veterinarians and pet-parents primarily through our
online store and in Ahmedabad, Delhi and Bengaluru. The response has been good because animals need this to not only stop bleeding but also prevent infections. The investment in animal health R&D is less than a crore.

Tell us about your funds?
Last year we raised Rs 36 crore ($5.2 million) in Series B-1 round of funding led by Omidyar Network India, along with participation from existing investors Accel, University of California, Ratan Tata’s UC-RNT Fund, and Chiratae Ventures. We brought in the global investor to expand into targeted global markets. The current round is ongoing around so we might have more funds coming into it. The idea is to remain well capitalised before we launch in the US.

Tell us about your plans?
Building an Indian brand for the world. In India, we will own the wound care market as we will launch more products that are being developed in-house and in various stages of approval. Post covid, a lot of distributors have shut shop, we believe our next step would be to provide an entire portfolio, end-to-end solutions right from wound cleaning to irrigation healing to post-care the whole spectrum. Through e-comm, we will make these
products mainstream. So far, we are only introduced to patients through a doctor or hospital but we are looking
at this vast unmet need and diverse patient population majority who do not have access to doctors but will have
access to the Internet. So we want to reach out to these group and we already serve more than 500 pincodes in India in 30 states and UT.

Due to the COVID pandemic and lockdown, we got a lot of traction online. We work with five military
establishments outside India in Europe, Asia and South East Asia. This is more than 10x business that we do with the military in India. Advanced stop bleeding kit is available on Amazon, Flipkart and our online store. True change from B2B to B2C bring us closer to our customers. We ship products directly to clinic and nursing homes. Website visitors have gone up by 500 per cent and we have adopted the hybrid approach to reaching customers. We have recently signed a multi-million euro deal with a large European company that will market our products in western countries. We are looking at more such partners.

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