Eyedropper startup Nanodropper lands new $500k Air Force contract as it begins shipping device

Nanodropper, makers of an eye drop bottle adapter that reduces the size of eye drops and saves medication and money in the process, has received more funding from the United States Air Force.

The medical device startup launched by a group of University of Washington students is the recipient of a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract worth roughly $500,000. Nanodropper previously received a Phase 1 contract worth $49,000.

Nanodropper, which won the University of Washington Hollomon Health Innovation Challenge in 2019, was founded by UW alumni Allisa Song, Mackenzie Andrews, and Dr. Jennifer Steger, along with Seattle University alum Elias Baker.

Its FDA-approved adapter, which screws to the top of most eye drop bottles, is designed to reduce waste in the delivery of medication, especially for patients with glaucoma, which causes blindness. Eyedroppers often deliver more medication than the eye can physically absorb, and the Nanodropper reduces the size of drops by a quarter or more.

The team was inspired by an article by ProPublica about how larger-than-necessary eyedrops were increasing costs for glaucoma patients, who can spend $500 per month on medication.

The company, which now employs seven, started shipping its adaptors all over the U.S. in late June and is currently generating revenue, fulfilling hundreds of orders and building up a base of partner clinics.

The COVID-19 pandemic delayed launch by several months, mainly because of a backlog in U.S. medical device sterilization, according to the company. Funding was also delayed a bit, but the entirely remote company credited systems and workflow already in place for helping it to navigate the health crisis.

According to Nanodropper, the SBIR program is run by AFWERX, a community of Air Force innovators who act as a catalyst for Air Force engagement across industry, academia, and non-traditional contributors to create transformative opportunities and foster an Air Force culture of innovation. The Air Force Research Laboratory and AFWERX have partnered to streamline the SBIR process in an attempt to speed up the experience, broaden the pool of potential applicants, and decrease bureaucratic overhead. The goal of the program is to solve problems and enhance the effectiveness of the Air Force by enabling thoughtful, deliberate, ground-up innovation across the Air Force.

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