Ear wax. It is something that every person is familiar with but not something regularly talked about. When you think about ear wax, there can be a range of emotions. You may be the type of person that knows it exists, that your ears produce it, and know that when it is time to clean your ears when you pull your ear buds out and wax is caked on them. Or you may be the type of person that regularly cleans your ears, so you rarely have wax build up. Or you may be that person that has had an ear wax impaction and had to deal with the struggle and implications that went along with it. No matter what, we all deal with ear wax in some way or another.
Elyse Dickerson, a guest on the Innovate Fort Worth podcast, saw a market need of ear wax impaction. On her podcast episode, Ear Space, she tells the story of Eosera came to be and how she worked on remedying this unmet medical need after a 13-year career in biotech.
“When I left it was in early 2015 and I had been exploring mentoring startup companies in the years leading up to 2015. I really got inspired through the Health Wildcatters in Dallas, working with some of their companies and seeing the progress they were making and the opportunities. So, when I left, I thought, you know what? I think I should try this.”
Elyse and her business partner, Joe Griffin, set out with some ideas, but nothing concrete. They spent several months talking to any doctors that would meet with them and discussed multiple topics and asked about conditions that they regularly saw but did not have a good product to remedy the issue.
“… earwax impaction of all things rose to the top with pediatricians, geriatricians, regular GPs, ENTs, it didn’t matter who we talked to, they all said if you can come up with a product that will dissolve wax quickly, you’ve got a game changer.”
With the money in their savings account and the help of Tech Fort Worth and the UNT Health Science Center’s labs, they got started formulating and filling this medical need. Now, how do you start?
“I love sharing this part of the story because I’m not a scientist. Joe, my business partner, has a PhD. I have a learner’s mindset and so I was in the lab with Joe every single day, reading patents, reading medical literature, and formulating, with his guidance of course, to create a product. It gave me a new sense of confidence.”
How do you test the product or get samples to do so?
“We ended up harvesting human earwax from doctors around DFW. They would send us wax and little test tubes. It was lovely. Then we would put that wax and line it up against competing products versus our product to see if we could break down that wax.”
Although there are other products on the market for this, most of them are to soften the wax over time. Eosera’s product, EearwaxMD, dissolves the wax completely in 15 minutes. With a $50,000 win of a business plan competition sponsored by Comerica Bank and the Dallas Entrepreneur Center, the company got its start.
“We ended up winning and with that money, we were able to immediately start a human clinical trial and have data that is now published in peer reviewed medical journals. And for the first time, I had investors calling asking if we were raising money because they were interested.”
Their first product was launched in 2017, which was the product that dissolved ear wax. With that products success, they started expanding to inside the ear care and now have a line of seven different ear care products in 14,000 stores across the nation, including CVS. Their goal is to expand distribution and start exploring the nasal category and the opportunities that could come from that.
It is comforting to know that being a female founder and CEO in biotech, which tends to be a male dominated field, has not kept the Dallas and Fort Worth ecosystem or investors from supporting Elyse.
“We knew we were taking a little bit of a risk by just me being the CEO, but Dallas/Fort Worth has been amazing. The investor support for me and for Joe has been phenomenal. The support we have gotten from Tech Fort Worth and UNT Health Science Center and all these organizations, it does not matter that I am a woman. I do not feel that I am treated any differently in this ecosystem, which is how it should be. It should not matter that I am a woman. And I’m just really proud of our community and of our ecosystem for supporting entrepreneurs in general.”
These are just some highlights of Elyse’s story. Listen to the podcast episode, Ear Space, to hear how Greek mythology went into naming the company, how she nailed her pitch to the buyer from CVS and the advice she would give to those future entrepreneurs interested in the STEM, medicine, or biotech field.
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