HealthTech Accelerator #3: Long-time friends partner to launch KelCor, a single-use taping system for intubation

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is another article in a series spotlighting the companies that are participating in the inaugural “HealthTech Accelerator” sponsored by CO.LAB, Erlanger Health System and Unum. “Demo Day” is June 5. To register, click here.)

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

A friendship that began 15 years ago when one of the Co-Founders of this Chattanooga start-up had just opened a retail store where the other Co-Founder was an early customer has spearheaded a partnership to create a new standard of care in the securing of airway devices for short-term procedures.

The company, named KelCor, is one of the participants in the inaugural “HealthTech Accelerator” sponsored by CO.LAB, Erlanger Health System and Unum. To underscore the evolution of that friendship, the start-up derives its name from the first three letters of the Co-Founders’ first names. Kelly Good is a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, while Cory Allison is a General Partner at The JumpFund.

The comradery and mutual respect they have for each other was clearly on display during our recent interview. The idea for KelCor’s inaugural product originated with Good and her healthcare background, but Allison clearly brings her breadth of start-up experience, as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist, to the team. They have very different personalities, but Allison says the glue that fuels their new business partnership is “very similar value systems and our shared desire to make a positive impact on patient care.”

At the time they met, Allison was running WiggleWorm, a children’s boutique she started from scratch, and Good was a customer. Their friendship blossomed quickly as they both pursued their separate careers – Allison in and around the entrepreneurial community, while Good focused on her nurse anesthesia career and a stint teaching at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Together, they are leveraging what Good describes as her “passion for delivering better care through creative problem solving.” Those came to the forefront for KelCor when Good says she suddenly had what one might call an epiphany. When securing the airway on a patient she had anesthetized for surgery, she saw the tape she was using “in a whole new light.”

In a sterile operating room environment, most items used for anesthesia are individually packaged and designed for their designated use. Rolls of tape are among the few exceptions, fulfilling multiple purposes in patient care, and Good set out to develop a novel solution for tape used on a patient’s face during surgery.

“When Kelly came to me with this idea in 2015, I was in the midst of starting-up Rezli Inc.,” Allison said. “I did not have the bandwidth to help her, but encouraged her to go for it.”

That advice was a challenge for Good. Based on her professional training, she says that “getting out of one’s lanes is not that easy. It (innovation) is not what I was trained to do.”

Then, in 2018 after shutting down Rezli, Allison reengaged with Good on the tape idea, and they are now focused on bringing the solution to market. It involves using a combination of current tape materials to reliably secure the airway in an efficient manner.

“Our delivery system is the secret sauce,” Allison says. To that end, KelCor has applied for a patent on the process.

The Co-Founders’ goal is to have a small batch of the new product available soon for small pilots and a research study. In addition to use in anesthesia, Good says their taping system could work well for Emergency Medical Services and any others needing short term airway securement.

“It is not appropriate for an intensive care environment, where there are airway securing devices designed specifically for this patient population” she adds.

For now, Good and Allison have self-funded the development. They will probably need to secure outside funding in the future, but they are holding-up on that for now. They are, however, open to strategic partner discussions.

“I feel like this idea found me,” Good says, adding, “Our goal is to see a new and better standard of care established.”

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