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Rochester startup 'Nanodropper' helps reduce waste, save money on eye drops

The Rochester-based company is helping people save thousands of dollars every year on their eye drop medications.

ROCHESTER, Minnesota — There's a big vision behind these small drops. 

The Rochester-based startup "Nanodropper" is helping people save thousands of dollars every year on their eye drop medications through a bottle adaptor.

Allisa Song, Nanodropper CEO and one of four co-founders, said it all started when she read an article in 2017 about how drug companies make eye drops larger than the human eye can hold. The result is wasted medicine. 

"I learned that these bottles currently dispense drops that are up to five times too big for the human eye," Song explained. "Eye drop bottles dispense anywhere from 35 all the way up to 70 microliters in volume. For context, our eyes can only hold about 7-10 microliters."

So Song and her colleagues created an adaptor that replaces the original cap on a bottle and reduces the droplet size to 10-15 microliters. On average, the adaptor is able to make the bottle last three to four times longer and save customers up to $2,500 per year, per prescription. 

Credit: Nanodropper
From left to right: Nanodropper Co-founders Mackenzie Andrews, Jennifer Steger, Allisa Song and Elias Baker.

"We actually are the world's first eye drop bottle adaptor that reduces the volume of the medication," Song said. 

Nanodropper, which formed in 2018 and officially launched in June 2020, aims to increase access to expensive eye drop medications. For example, the cost of glaucoma medications can be a barrier to care. 

"Overall, people have been so grateful for something like Nanodropper to finally hit the market. We hear especially from patients who run out of their medications before the end of the month who really have to struggle with that decision at the pharmacy counter because insurance isn't going to cover the next refill yet," Song said. 

Not only is Song a CEO of a company but she also is in her fourth year as a Mayo Clinic medical student. Song will go on to complete another six years of training in a plastic surgery residency program. 

This year, the Nanodropper team entered in the state's largest startup competition — MN Cup. In September, Nanodropper won the $50,000 grand prize. It was the first time since it started 17 years ago that a student-led startup claimed the top prize. Nanodropper was also awarded $25,000 for winning their division. 

Thanks to the prize money, they are now on the hunt in the Rochester area for a facility where they can move their order fulfillment and shipping. It will be their first physical Nanodropper location. 

"It really was a huge win for us as a team and it's the biggest competition that we've ever entered into," Song said. 

Song said they want to keep removing barriers for others when it comes to health inequities. She talked about how she's noticing other areas that could be improved, saying, "Even when it comes to medical device design, I'm like, 'Oh my gosh, I see this waste in clinic... that's gotta be the next thing to go on our list of problems to solve.'"

You can buy the Nanodropper adaptor online for $14.99 or through one of their 300+ partner clinics. It fits on most eye drop bottles but should be checked prior to ordering. 

Nanodropper recommends using one adaptor per bottle and throwing it out once the medication runs out. 

Know a local business we should feature for our Behind the Business segment? Email Heidi Wigdahl at hwigdahl@kare11.com.   

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