An Interview With Marc Koska, Inventor of the Auto-Disable Syringe
Absorbing himself in the newspapers and news, Marc Koska couldn’t ignore the plight of millions who were suffering from the AIDS virus in Africa. So, at 23, he designed a syringe that breaks once it’s been used. Taking him three minutes to design, Marc battled for 17 years to manufacture, patent and distribute the K1 Auto-Disable.
Persistently fighting against bureaucratic red tape, in 1996 Marc was finally able to co-found Star Syringe and licence the technology around the world. His unshakable patience and his unwavering vision to stop the spread of a killer virus make Marc a truly admirable entrepreneur and speaker. We caught up with him to find out more about his remarkable invention that has saved countless lives.
Hi Marc. What inspired you to invent this life-saving syringe?
What I had observed is that syringes are used a number of times on innocent patients, from patient to patient. If someone is ill, that illness can go from the one person to the other who is inject. I designed a syringe that can be made on the same equipment for the same price that can be used in the same way, but that breaks after use. It's called an auto-disable syringe, which means that injections can be given in exactly the way that they are meant to be!
What challenges did you face on the road from designing to syringe to it reaching the market?
I suppose looking back, it's the typical disruption story. A bright idea, or a challenging idea, that goes against an ingrained market and industrial base for producing medical products. There was all the normal fight back from industries, from organisations, from standards committees saying, "We're not ready for this radical change yet, so everything was thrown at me: from death-threats, to factories being bull-dozed on opening, to bribery and organisations taking away tenders and contracts from us. I went through the whole range of challenges on the journey.
What lessons can audiences learn from your incredible story?
I guess the lessons that people enjoy hearing about are that I didn't sell one of my products for 17 years, so there's an element of persistance in that, on how I kept going and overcame those barriers and challenges over that amount of time. What's more, when I did get there eventually, the job wasn't done. Even though the product was in the market, I still had to force through legislation to create demand for these products in the marketplace - generically. I fought not just for my products, but for the whole industry to change.
What more do you think needs to be done?
What I find really interesting is that even though there is a logical solution to this problem, it's still not taken up on a wholesale basis.
What I really have enjoyed over the last three years is designing a new system that benefits more people in the chain. By benefitting people we know the profits and that there is a bigger incentive for them to take up the new inventions that have come through over the past few years. We can also look forward to another generation where people can people can move drugs around more easily as we move to an era of self-administration. That's much more about looking at the whole system. It's a holistic approach, rather than just changing one element in the story of the syringe. Look at it this way - instead of inventing a new safety belt for a car, it's better to make the car safer all round.
What's next for you?
I guess I 've earned the right now after 33 years now to think bigger. I've now designed a product and set of ideas, a set of patents, on a whole new system whereby we are going to distribute drugs in a much more efficient way. We are going to make sure that medicines and vaccines are available for everybody in the world via a much easier platform for them to recieve, understand and use. They are much more environmentally-friendly and cost-effective - and I am pretty certain that this is a revolution about to start!
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