Making the most of a MedTech pilot grant

Véronique Peiffer and Justin Huelman received a Coulter grant to develop their prototype solution for palmar hyperhidrosis, or excessively sweaty palms. (Image credit: Stacey Paris McCutcheon)


In this interview, Véronique Peiffer, an alumna of the Biodesign Innovation Fellowship and the recipient of a Spectrum MedTech pilot grant, provides advice to Stanford innovators who want to take advantage of everything that this mentoring program has to offer.

In 2017, Dr. Peiffer and her cofounder, Justin Huelman, officially founded palmm, the 49th company launched out of Stanford Biodesign. palmm provides a convenient at-home treatment for excessive sweating that stops sweat production on targeted body parts, such as the hands. The system applies a mild electrical current to the skin through wearable garments and has been shown to safely deactivate sweat glands for up to several weeks. 

Their invention won the top award in the UCSF-Stanford Pediatric Device Consortium Pitch Competition on March 29, 2019.

What project were you working on when you applied for Spectrum MedTech funding?

Peiffer: We started developing a bioelectronic therapy to help in the treatment of excessive sweating, a large but under-appreciated dermatologic condition.

Why did you apply for a Spectrum MedTech pilot grant?

Peiffer: Early funding is essential for any project to be able to move to the next step. We focused efforts on R&D-related activities to get ready for future clinical testing. Spectrum funding was very helpful here; we were able to get the equipment we needed and bring our technology up to the next level.

What advice would you give on choosing a project?

Peiffer: Whatever project you end up working on, make sure the unmet clinical need is there. There are some great video tutorials on need-finding on the Biodesign website.

Any tips on preparing for the initial grant pitch?

Peiffer: Practice your pitch with people whom you trust to give you honest feedback. Make sure to think through what questions the panel may ask, showing that you have thought about different aspects of the project. But it’s certainly O.K. to acknowledge that you don’t have all the answers yet.

What advice would you give to new grantees?

Peiffer: Spectrum will ask you for quarterly updates, so keep good track of your spending! A simple spreadsheet or online tool can help make sure you don’t under- or overspend. This is a helpful tool to ensure you stay on track.

As you are preparing your application, think about who will do what. It helps to set expectations and it will speed up your work so you don’t have to go looking for more talent later on. Also, don’t be too aggressive on your project timelines. Many things take a bit longer than you anticipate.

If you’re using Spectrum funding as a potential trajectory towards founding a company to further develop the technology, try and think ahead: you will need additional funding sooner rather than later. Your Spectrum mentor may be able to help you with this.

What were the best things about your project and grant year?

Peiffer: There are so many amazing people at Stanford University. If you are looking for help, reach out to whomever seems like the best person. Chances are they will be interested in getting involved, or at least they may know someone else who is.

What happened after your grant year?

Peiffer: Out of our Spectrum work, we started a company called palmm. The company is based at the Fogarty Institute for Innovation, where we benefit from a wealth of experience in the MedTech space. Since then, the team has tested the technology with 10+ patients and made significant progress towards a commercial form-factor of the system. Already, palmm has secured multiple grants and is closing a pre-series A investment round to complete product development and validate customer interest with a home use trial.