A rose by any other name: Rose Cup helping the frail to swallow
Toowoomba based General Practitioner Gawie Roux and wife Hannelie, a Registered Nurse, have worked together to develop a world-first feeding device that could improve life for millions of people who have difficulty swallowing.
“It began about seven years ago, with a specific patient, by the name of Rose Palmada, it’s quite an interesting story,” Dr Roux explains.
Dr Roux, as Rose’s GP for many years, had a close bond with the Palmada family.
Rose, at 89 years old, was declining with dementia and was suffering from dysphagia; a difficulty to swallow.
As Rose attempted to swallow food she would inhale liquid into her lungs, which lead to her developing pneumonia.
Dr Roux suspected if Rose was encouraged to suck before she swallowed, engaging a natural instinct to search and suck, she may be able to swallow safely.
Battling against time as Rose’s condition worsened he developed his first Rose Cup prototype, modifying a calf teat. Rose sucked food through and was able to swallow it down. Over time Rose’s condition improved and stabilised.
“The family was extremely grateful for the initial device, a prototype that was made then, and I promised them that we’d bring out something commercially,” he says.
That rudimentary but effective cow teat has evolved through over 20 prototypes, into the Rose Cup.
Dr Roux and his wife Hannelie have also developed specialised spout attachments for the cup, to help with flow and volume control and have created a powder supplement range for people with feeding diffculties (NutriTaste).
Based in Toowoomba, it is important to them to support local manufacturers.
All of the plastic parts in the Rose Cup and attachments, as well as the NutriTaste food range are manufactured in Queensland.
“We get the moulds made overseas, bring them in, and get them made in factories in Australia,” says Dr Roux.
Developing and refining the multiple iterations of the Rose Cup has not been without its stresses for the Rouxs’.
“It took us more than 20 prototypes, because it’s quite complicated to get the flow dynamics of the thickened fluid right,” Dr Roux explains.
“For the last year and a half-two years, we worked with professionals in the field, especially speech pathologists and received feedback from them, and they tested it and gave advice back and so on, so we refine the attachments to make sure we get it right,” he says.
“The long duration to be able to get to a promotional phase, it is extremely expensive. Imagine going through all of those phases without being able to sell anything.”
The Rouxs’ company Bayro №1 received $250,000 of funding from Advance Queensland Ignite Ideas Fund which has helped to get them through this trying refinement stage.
“The funding made it possible to finalise the research and development for the attachment range which is coming online now. It contributed quite a bit to get the final product in the pipeline. If it wasn’t for that support it would have been really, really, difficult to get it over the line,” says Dr Roux.
The Roux’s were also supported to attend Myriad, Queensland’s landmark innovation and investment summit last month, using the opportunity to connect with other regional innovators.
“What was nice about it was to meet all the other guys in the same boat, the cross fertilisation that went with that.”
“We were able to discuss a lot of things with each other; when you talk to other people that have been through it before you can pick up tips,” says Dr Roux.
“Coming back from Myriad together with the team from Toowoomba makes it quite a bit easier, we are much more connected now,” he says.
They plan on rolling out the Rose Cup in the Toowoomba and Brisbane region, where they have established contacts and support, to start with, before expanding into international markets.
Dr Roux is excited about the global potential for the Rose Cup and their range of products to help the millions of people who have difficulty swallowing.
“We think we are only just touching the tip of the iceberg, there is still a lot of work to be done in the field,” he says.
“There has been very little development in the field of dysphagia management on the ground for a long, long time and there is still a lot of work to be done.”