Start-Up Previews (01/08)
A preview of the emerging health care companies profiled in the current issue of Start-Up. This month's profile groups are "NOTES Companies Sing an Upbeat Tune," and "Solid Support for Flu Vaccine Development." Plus these Start-Ups Across Health Care: Carigent Therapeutics, Cizzle Biotechnology, Genesis Medical Interventional, and ValveXchange.
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There was an almost dot-com-like euphoria about NOTES at 2007's annual meetings of endoscopists and surgeons. NOTES (natural orifice translumenal endoscopic surgery) is being described as a revolution in minimally invasive surgery, incisionless surgery, or at the very least, a major advance over laparoscopy. It represents a billion-dollar category not yet dominated by the companies that gained preeminence in the $4 billion worldwide laparoscopy market. But most companies in the area agree that the NOTES revolution isn't going to happen overnight. The challenge for today is to create products and technologies for procedures that can happen in high volume in the near term, while waiting for more advanced NOTES procedures to come about.
In heart valve surgery, there have been no home runs yet among the numerous efforts to improve the durability of tissue valves. ValveXchange Inc. has a different solution: improving the way that worn valves are replaced. The start-up is developing a tissue valve with exchangeable leaflets that can be exchanged either percutaneously or via minimally invasive techniques. By focusing on the replacement procedure, ValveXchange aims to make bioprosthetic valves more attractive to the increasingly younger patient population for whom its faster and safer exchange technology will provide a lifetime solution.
In the emerging field of natural orifice surgery, Minos Medical is taking a blended-risk approach by initially going after high-volume procedures that aren't complicated, and which are done laparoscopically today. The company's strategy is to develop the tools and gain experience in near-term markets that would position it for more advanced NOTES applications in the future. Minos has already launched its first product, called MegaChannel, a platform for delivering tools in and out of the bowel, the stomach, or the upper GI tract. According to the company, MegaChannel is the NOTES equivalent of cardiology's guiding catheter.