And finally…student inventor finally cashes-in as Edinburgh firm sells for £72m

Matt McGrath
Matt McGrath

Matt McGrath, the young student who won a competition with his ground-breaking reinvention of a medical device used in every major surgical operation has finally sold the business he founded 14 years ago for a staggering £72 million.

McGrath tore up the rule book for new inventions by not licensing his videolaryngoscope for others to sell following his breakthrough 14 years ago.

Instead he approached Scottish public figures and private investors for financial support to set up Edinburgh-based Aircraft Medical to sell the device in 2001.

Now, the 37-year-old has banked around £38 million from selling the companyto one of the world’s largest medical technology firms for £73m.

Dublin-based Medtronic Medtronic said it bought Aircraft Medical in an all-cash transaction worth $110m (£72.3m).

Aircraft Medical makes devices which enable clinicians to see patients’ vocal cords while inserting a breathing tube into the trachea.

Medtronic, which serves physicians, hospitals and patients in about 160 countries, said the acquisition expanded its portfolio of solutions for dealing with difficult airways.

Steve Blazejewski, from Medtronic, said: “Aircraft Medical’s offerings complement our portfolio, helping us further our commitment to reducing incidents and potential complications from respiratory compromise globally.

“The company’s laryngoscopes will play an important role in our airways portfolio as we develop and provide meaningful innovations that improve patient outcomes.”

Mr McGrath, who approached former HBOS chairman Lord Dennis Stevenson, former Scottish Trades Union Congress general secretary, the late Campbell Christie, and Linlithgow, to invest in the business, said he had no plans to retire on the back of his newlt acquired fortune, “I am going to continue to work with Medtronic as a consultant and adviser, helping them with integration”, he said, “It has been my passion and I see it as just a milestone in a much bigger story.”

“I am certain that in the future I will become involved in other projects as most people do as they go through their careers.”

Aircraft Medical's Laryngoscope.
Aircraft Medical’s Laryngoscope.

He said the 30-strong team involved in manufacturing at Dalgety Bay in Fife would benefit from the extra resource of Medtronic behind the product. “They are in 160 countries, to date we are only in about 50.”

Mr McGrath’s invention was aimed at the unchanged 60-year-old design of the laryngoscope, and in 2004 he brought the world’s first fully portable video laryngoscope to the market.

The McGrath Series 5 featured a miniature camera and LCD display and ran off a single AA battery.

In 2010, Aircraft Medical launched a second generation platform, the McGrath MAC, to improve the intubation process in both routine and more difficult patients.

The laryngoscope is a critical part of the two million general anaesthetic operations carried out around the world every week, as it spies out the airway for a breathing tube to be safely inserted.

Failure to manage the airway is the most frequent cause of death or permanent brain damage during anaesthesia.