The creator of the smarter sharps bin is aiming for a share of the multi-billion dollar digital therapeutics market
Opposite Luas Station in the Dublin suburb of Bluebell, a sign for the Rescue Church in a unit in Naas Road Business Park reads ‘Jesus saves people’. But Jim Joyce of HealthBeacon next door is more evangelical about the power of digital health technology to save people.
Oyce, a Bostonian who has lived in Ireland for 16 years, is the CEO and co-founder of HealthBeacon. It has developed the world’s first FDA-approved smart sharps bin to help patients who need to self-inject drugs at home to treat chronic conditions such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease.
On a sunny but crisp Tuesday afternoon, Joyce wears black and white Guess sneakers paired with a light gray suit and demonstrates how his signature medical device works in the HealthBeacon reception area. The startup-style space is decorated with white walls and wooden pallets painted light green — the same colors as the device itself.
The smart waste bin lights up when it’s time for a patient to inject their medication. The device, which includes a rigid sharps disposal container and connects to the user’s phone, tracks whether medication was taken at the right time, securely stores used injectors and is shipped back to HealthBeacon when full.
The device solves a fundamental problem for doctors and pharmaceutical companies that make injectable medicines – how to address the fact that up to one in two patients does not stick to their medication schedule.
According to HealthBeacon, 30 million people in Europe and North America alone take such drugs, including Joyce’s own mother, who has diabetes.
“She’s in Florida and needs an injection,” says Joyce. “I also use the technology in my own family.
“For me, the big motivation is that you have these drugs that you can keep seeing them transforming people’s lives. You have people who are in excruciating pain or unable to get up. You could have Crohn’s disease, then get these drugs and get your life back.
“But you need help, don’t you? Injecting these drugs is not intuitive. We live in this amazing time where we have access to these medicines – but if you don’t take them properly, they’re doing no one any good.”
In February, peer-reviewed studies showed that medication compliance improved by 26% when patients used HealthBeacon technology.
In the same month, the company announced that it had added five more pharmaceutical companies and national health systems to its customer base, including the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) and the Health Service Executive (HSE), in addition to existing customers such as Novartis, Sanofi, Teva and AbbVie.
HealthBeacon operates in 17 countries and counts Mary Harney, a former Minister of Health and Tánaiste, as one of its directors.
Harney, who holds a small stake in the company thanks to an employee stock option plan, had a payday in mid-December when the fast-growing medical technology company went public on Dublin’s Euronext Growth stock exchange.
The IPO raised €25 million, with proceeds going towards a largely U.S.-focused expansion and investing in inventory so the company can sell 100,000 units by the end of 2023 — 10 times as many as last year. It will also more than double the workforce to 150 people and invest in further innovation and research and development.
Despite Joyce only reporting €2.21M in sales in 2021, Joyce was determined to take the company public to fund its ambitious growth strategy.
The 52-year-old says his goal is to make HealthBeacon the world’s leading digital therapy platform for injectable medicines, targeting a global market with the potential to generate about $10 billion in recurring revenue ) to generate.
“I’m trying to build a large, long-term, iconic digital healthcare company headquartered in Dublin,” says Joyce. “Public markets are open to companies at the stage we are at – and while it may be unusual in the Irish market for a company of our size, it is in many other European markets such as France, Belgium, Norway, Sweden. “
Joyce’s confidence in the stock markets can also be partly explained by his history. Growing up in Needham, a Boston suburb, in a large Irish-American family (“there are 57 first cousins on one side alone”), his father was a stockbroker.
When he graduated from Fordham University in New York City, Joyce followed in his father’s footsteps by working in the investment business, working at the Brown Brothers Harriman and Smith Barney.
“I thought it was one of the most intriguing fields, the whole idea of public markets and stock trading and the fast pace of it,” he says. “But then I realized I didn’t want to do this for the rest of my life.
“I saw the people who were just entering the field compared to the people who were there five or ten years later and I just didn’t want to be like them anymore. I definitely wanted to build a company and get into an industry, be it a technology company or a pharmaceutical company.”
With this change of heart, Joyce moved to Dublin in 1995 to pursue an MBA at UCD Smurfit School, where he met his Italian wife, Emanuela. During a college milk round, Schering-Plough (now part of Merck & Co/MSD) recruited him into their management program and sent him to New Jersey.
Joyce eventually became director of the company’s US finance department and later led the EMEA finance and planning department.
“Every year I made the international plans for all the subsidiaries and I remember asking the UK subsidiary, ‘Can you give me some results for the Irish market?’” he says. “They had no real information about what happened.
“I asked them if they had heard of the Celtic Tiger and the fact that it is a growing economy. I pointed out that if we had an operation in Norway, why not have one in Ireland? Eventually I convinced their management team to set up their own Irish branch and they appointed me MD.
“The best job you can have in pharmacy is as general manager of a national company. It was also a great job as your boss was off the island and you are in charge!”
At Schering-Plough, Joyce became interested in transferring injectable medications from crowded hospital environments and helped establish programs to treat patients in primary care clinics and for nurses to train patients to self-inject at home.
Realizing there was a lack of companies that could help provide these services, Joyce founded his own in 2006 called Point of Care Health Services.
While at the point of care she ran patient support services and sharps container collections for pharmaceutical companies, Joyce noticed that patients often didn’t take their injectable medications on time when left to their own devices.
He realized that a smart sharps disposal bin that prompted patients to take their medication could be the solution.
He sold a stake in Point of Care in 2009 to focus on developing this idea and Uniphar acquired the rest of the company in 2013. That same year he co-founded HealthBeacon with his co-founder Kieran Daly.
He brought the idea to his contacts in the close-knit Irish pharmaceutical sector and received positive feedback.
“I had their support throughout the process,” he says. “I’m too old an entrepreneur not to have customers.”
The last 12 months have been crucial for HealthBeacon. In addition to going public, last year the company signed a deal with Hamilton Beach Brands, an American marketer and distributor of home appliances, to sell smart sharps bins directly to consumers in North America for about $500 per capita.
“Hamilton Beach introduces 100 products to the US each year and they are in 89 percent of all US homes,” says Joyce. “They have a lot of influence in the market.”
The product has gone on sale on Smartsharpsbin.com and Amazon and will be available later this year at chains including CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, Target and Costco. Last week, an advertising campaign launched with commercials and patient influencers on YouTube, TikTok and Instagram.
In March, the company signed what it called a “transforming” multi-year deal to supply up to 15,000 Smart Sharps Bins to a leading US specialty pharmacy and insurance provider, building “significant momentum” for the company.
American entrepreneurs setting up companies with global ambitions in Ireland may be few and far between – but Joyce’s ties to the two countries and the connections he has forged in the pharmaceutical industry on both sides of the Atlantic have proven to be a recipe for growth.
“Even the person who runs our Boston office is the president of the Boston Irish Business Association, so we’re in the loop,” he says.
“The biggest benefit I’ve seen is the success Irish executives have in big pharma or medtech companies or even in the investment space. That means as they rise through the ranks of the organization, we will have relationships with them.”
Surname: Jim Joyce
Position: CEO and co-founder of HealthBeacon
Life: Ranelagh, Dublin 6
Family: Married to Emanuela. The couple have two sons, Gianpaolo (20) and Sebastiano (15).
Training: Studied business administration at Fordham University, New York and MBA at the UCD Smurfit School in Dublin.
Favorite book: “I’m reading now Creativity: A Short and Cheerful Guide by John Cleese. He talks about the art of creativity, how it comes about, how you come up with new ideas and how your mind is always working on new concepts even when you stop thinking about them.”
Favourite movie: Wall Street
Hobbies: “I do cold water swimming at a forty foot club that I belong to and I play basketball with my sons.”
Which digital health tech entrepreneurs do you admire most?
“Glen Tullman, the founder of Livongo – a digital diabetes healthcare company that went public with much fanfare. And the local I’ve always admired for his work ethic is SilverCloud Health’s Ken Cahill. He has sold his company to a larger public company – but I have always admired his resilience and perseverance over the years.”
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs in Ireland?
“Patience – no pun intended. If you’re passionate about healthcare and derive energy and joy from it, go for it – but you need patience with yourself. And then find some patients who can try your technology!”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/creator-of-the-smarter-sharps-bin-aims-for-slice-of-multi-billion-digital-therapeutics-market-41577410.html The creator of the smarter sharps bin is aiming for a share of the multi-billion dollar digital therapeutics market