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Meet the Innovator – Gregory Dean, CEO and Founder of DriQ Health

This month’s Pennovation Works Meet the Innovator spotlight is Gregory Dean, CEO and Founder of DriQ Health. 

Before we get to know Gregory, let’s get to know DriQ Health:

DriQ Health is on a mission to create technology which transforms the management of urinary incontinence. DriQ's intelligent Internet of Things (IoT) diaper monitoring system detects when residents in a nursing home experience urinary incontinence and immediately communicates this to the clinical staff to ensure timely help to the residents. DriQ’s goal is to maintain the dignity, health and comfort of seniors in nursing homes.  DriQ officially joined the entrepreneurial Pennovation Works community with a mobile desk membership at the Center, and a year+ later then expanded their presence with a move into an Inventor Garage for their own office space where they reside today.  

Interview Questions - Meet the Innovator Gregory Dean:

We had a great time getting to know Gregory and hearing more about his outlook for the future of DriQ. You can check out our YouTube channel for a recorded version of this interview.

How long have you been at the Pennovation Center, and what type of space do you have?

  • We've been at Pennovation since the mid part of 2019. We've done some work with Netronix which is on this campus, and then over time it was a natural progression just to move into the space. We did that I believe at the beginning of 2020. We have a wonderful space at the end of the first floor footprint, and we look out over the Schuylkill and the University of Pennsylvania campus. It's a great space because there's the ability to collaborate, and we have wide open space. It's wonderful to bring our investors in for our internal meetings, and also some assembly of our devices so it works out very well.

If you could talk to your younger self, what would you tell that version of you, knowing what you know now?

  • Everything is possible. You need to identify a problem that hasn't been solved and you need to listen to your friends, but also believe in what you think is the next step. You will talk to people that will say this is not possible. I think that every person that is developing a new product will hear that, and I hear that that's normal and expected. I have thought about other projects in the past, and I think what I've learned from this one is that you really just need to believe in your vision, and be prepared to move ahead. Allow others to help you, but also know that what you're making is valuable, and that you just need to move forward.

What inspires you about your company?

  • I have seen so much progress with medicine over the past two years. I am a physician, and I have been frankly surprised that we've made as much progress with regard to addressing the pandemic in such a short time. I do know that some very fundamental problems exist. Within senior living, there's a lot of ongoing issues with urinary incontinence, and lack of recognition of this as a problem in nursing homes. When I walk into a nursing home and see the elderly sitting in wet briefs or diapers and not having any technology to help them, immediately I become passionate and realize that we do have a solution. It's inspiring to walk in and know that we can help these people.

What led you to where you are today and motivated you to start this company?

  • I’m a urologist and a pediatric urologist, and we have a lot of knowledge regarding urinary incontinence. I have a technical interest and background. As I started to speak with my friends and collaborators, particularly Vasileios Nasis who is at Netronix Ventures, he and I discussed the concept of using Internet of Things (IoT) as a way to move forward. I think the technology had developed such that we could put pieces together, and we could have a sensor that could recognize urinary incontinence. We had technology to communicate that from a health care environment, such as a nursing home or medical home, and then move it to the cloud. The pieces are here right now, and that I had the interest in incontinence to understand that this was a problem, the ability to talk to colleagues and collaborators who also shared my passion and really being able to connect the problem with people that could solve it. I think that that's really what I was able to bring to this.

What’s the best part about working at Pennovation?

  • I have a background at the University of Pennsylvania, and I did my fellowship at Children's Hospital Philadelphia so I have a strong, warm, feeling towards Penn. The ability to work and collaborate with others, and having Netronix nearby has helped us. The ability to walk out of our office and walk over to another office, and discuss development issues is important. I love being at Pennovation because it's a great space, and  being able to bring investors here that are interested in moving us forward is wonderful. There's some business advantages to being here. I think that people know that we're a serious startup, and that this is not someone's idea in some garage. We are well funded and have a lot of resources. Overall it's a great space with great people, and I think it helps any company that's interested in moving forward to be here.

How do you see the company transforming and growing in the future?

  • I think the company is going to follow in some ways the pattern of the delivery of care in senior living. There's been a move, a recognition, that particularly with some of the critical issues of the pandemic that senior living has to be done a little bit differently. Monitoring is important. It hasn't been done, and we're going to see recognition within the marketplace of this problem. There's been a movement out of the nursing home into home care, and this is because people recognize that there's more than one way of delivering quality care. Nursing homes have been very challenged by the pandemic, and we're well positioned to allow that trend to be supported. Our device doesn't rely on any sort of wireless network we’re an IoT or Internet of Things device. What that means is you can take our DriQ device, plug it in, and it will connect directly over cellular networks. It'll connect in the US and overseas. We have devices in Singapore, and in Europe. It's really a plug-and-play solution. I think having our technology built in allows homecare companies and residential assisted living facilities to use our device, and there is a big advantage for us. We see lots of benefits to changes in senior living and we're there to support those changes, and certainly help nursing homes improve their quality and be there to support that as well.

What does a typical day look like for you at DriQ Health?

  • A typical day is variable. I still have lots of responsibilities. I'm very involved in the world of urology. I'm actually also involved in American Academy of Pediatrics, so I typically have some work to do with them as well as some general urology work. We're in production with our device, and I've had calls this morning with the folks that are manufacturing the plastic shell that our hardware is housed within. I met with our Netronix partner to discuss chip shipments and availability. There's no one single day that is representative. I'm traveling to Phoenix, Arizona to meet with nine small nursing home groups to look at our device next week, and I have a call later today to talk with a potential investor. It's a good mix, keeps things interesting, and keeps me on my toes.

How would people in your life describe you?

  • Passionate and not willing to just say “that's just the way it is,” not afraid to move forward, persistent, and somebody who digs-in and tries to understand how to move forward. I think that when you're in a startup, you have to wear many hats. First and foremost, you need to be a cheerleader for the college. You have to get other people excited. Things aren't created with one person, you need a team behind you - we have a great team as part of DriQ. You need to have the ability to generate interest among investors, and potentially be prepared to put some of your own money in. You have to be prepared to either hire experts with R&D or be part of that directly or perhaps a hybrid model, which I think is true for us. We had expertise in urology and health care, but we also relied on our expert partners to help develop the IoT platform.

What is your proudest accomplishment?

  • To be able to take a problem that seems so simple, which would be to notify people that a person in a nursing home needs to be changed. Dig into it, realize that it's very complicated and difficult, and that's one of the reasons why it has not been done successfully. Really develop a different way of solving the problem. We've solved the problem because we have thrown out the idea that you need to place a sensor inside the diaper. If you placed the sensor inside a diaper, it's going to get wet, you’ll have problems with powering it, you’ll have all sorts of unreliable information. We've taken a very different and really positive and revolutionary course by imagining a diaper where the sensor is on the outside. It doesn't become soiled, and it's reusable, potentially disposable, and imagined in a way that it would be simple to use. You can take our device, plug it in anywhere in the world, and have it work. To be able to do that as a small startup, with a small number of dedicated people, and to move to the point that we have, I think is an accomplishment that I believed I’d reach, and I'm very proud that we have.

Lightening Round:

What are your hobbies?

  • I actually have an interest in sports car racing, and with DriQ moving forward, I had put that on hold because it required so much of my time. My interest in sports car racing has allowed me to understand engineering principles and problems, and how to encounter challenges and move forward. I've been involved with that for twenty plus years in various types of sports cars.

Do you have a favorite Philadelphia restaurant?

  • My favorite Philadelphia restaurant is Veg. I think that, like DriQ, they try to do things in a different way and are not afraid to break out in a direction that they believe in and bring social benefit to everybody.

What is your favorite book?

  • My favorite book that I’ve read recently is Why Buddhism is True. This is a book that if you haven't read it, it really talks about why we do certain things and why we're motivated to do certain things. I think that a lot of people don't stop and think about some of the motivations in their own life. Whether you are religious or not, or whether you're you believe in Buddhism, or you're Christian, or you're agnostic, I think it's a very intriguing book and I would recommend it.

What is your favorite TV Show?

  • A claymation project called Houses, that’s available on streaming. It's a claymation production that looks at one Georgian house in England from the 18th century to now, and into the future, and it's really almost a dream piece. It's very interesting, and I would recommend people check this out.

We look forward to watching Gregory and company’s IoT technology develop and supporting the future growth of DriQ in the days ahead. 

Meet the Innovator – Picture of Gregory Dean, CEO and Founder of DriQ Health
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