[email protected]/(408) 457-3700

Health Sector Pioneers Break New Ground, Inch By Inch

Posted Jun 27, 2013


Business trails aren't always blazed. Often, they're painstakingly cleared and inched forward — particularly in the medical sector. How these entrepreneurs break new ground:

• Be an updater. A surprising fact about angioplasty: "It's really an exhausting procedure," said Corindus CEO David Handler.

Tiring for the surgeon, as well as the patient.

The heart procedure — performed 2.5 million times each year worldwide — opens narrow coronary arteries using tiny wires and devices. To manipulate them, the physician stands at the operating table draped in leaded, X-ray-protective garments.

The weight can take a toll on doctors' knees and spine.

Corindus' system brings robotics into the operating room, letting the surgeon work a few feet away from the patient in a radiation-protected, ergonomic cockpit.

"This is the first major change since the late 1980s," Handler told IBD. "It's a tool for interventional cardiologists to extend their physical capabilities."

• Deliver finesse. To win over the medical community, the robotic system had to be better in every way — particularly precision and ease of use.

"We spent a lot of time in the development of our product making it very simple," Handler said.

• Beat your drum. It takes time, and a lot of talking, to gain acceptance for new technology. "There's a lot of education that's required," Handler said. "We work closely with key opinion leaders."

That includes speaking at medical conferences and publishing medical journal articles.

• Get on site. Corindus sends its engineers to hospitals for firsthand experience "and to see how we can improve other procedures in the future," Handler said.

• Tackle hot problems. Hospital-acquired infections have been called a silent epidemic, costing hospitals as much as $45 billion a year, according to a Centers for Disease Control report.

Medizone International CEO Edwin Marshall says an estimated 400 people a day die from bugs — micro-organisms such as staphylococcus aureus — they catch while hospitalized. And that's a conservative figure. "It's really grossly underreported," he said.

Since 2008, his firm has been developing ozone technology to decontaminate hospital rooms via the gas, and without physically scrubbing and cleaning. "It can save lives and it can save money at the same time," Marshall said.

• Bet on brains. Michael Shannon, Medizone's president and director of medical affairs, has been researching ozone — a molecule with three oxygen atoms — since the late 1980s.

Such intellectual capital is king. "You have to bring the best people possible. Then keep them pointed in the right direction," Marshall said.

• Find fuel. Crowd funding — a startup staple of collecting money from a pool of investors — is getting a medical spin with VentureHealth, an investment portal specifically for health care advances.

Financing has long challenged life-science startups. Uncertainties like regulatory gray areas and steep R&D costs heighten the risks for potential investors.

"Nothing's a safe bet in venture capital," said VentureHealth co-founder and managing director Andrew Farquharson.

With co-founder Mir Imran, Farquharson aims to connect investors with leading-edge firms.

• Go big. To find opportunity in the $2.5 trillion health care sector, said Farquharson, "you want to get behind a large breakthrough," such as a new technique for treating chronic pain.

comments powered by Disqus

Back To Blog