Start-Up Previews (07/2009)
A preview of the emerging health care companies profiled in the current issue of Start-Up. This month's profile group, "Biotechs Eye Macular Degeneration," features profiles of Acucela, Iconic Therapeutics, MacuCLEAR, Ophthotech, Optherion and Sirion Therapeutics. "Scoping Out Gastroenterology Start-Ups" features profiles of invendo medical, Mauna Kea Technologies and Softscope Medical Technologies. Plus these Start-Ups Across Health Care: Bone Solutions, Cardioxyl Pharmaceuticals, Savara and VasoNova.
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Since its introduction in the late 1970s, the technique for PICC line placement has remained relatively the same. VasoNova aims to change this with its VasoNova Vascular Positioning System (VPS), a Doppler-ECG based smart guidance system that enables accurate placement of the inserted catheter tip on the first attempt.
There is one variable that can throw a wrench into a gastroenterologist's endoscopy day; how long it takes to navigate a colonoscope to the cecum. This is a function of the tortuosity of the colon. Softscope Medical Technologies is developing two products; Tempo, for the colon, and Tempo SB, for the small bowel, to take some of the challenges out of the two procedures. Each product is a disposable propulsive assist device designed as an endoscopic accessory, configured as a short attachment that fits quickly and simply over existing colonoscopes and enteroscopes to aid advancement. Softscope's products work by a principle that the company calls Continuous Rolling Over Sleeve (CROS) technology whereby a rotating membrane tube helps propel an endoscope around and through the GI tract. The rotating membrane tube is driven by a mechanical rotating drive wire. According to Softscope, its devices don't interfere with visualization, tip deflection, suction, the performance of therapeutic accessories, or the overall "feel" of the endoscope.
The field of gastroenterology is tantalizing for device manufacturers because it offers one of the rare screening paradigms in medicine, and therefore, enormous markets. In the US, it's recommended that everyone over the age of 50 be screened for colorectal cancer by a colonoscopy procedure. However, compliance with colorectal screening recommendations is low, less than 50% for colonoscopy, the gold standard for detecting precancerous polyps. GI endoscopy is unusual among screening paradigms in its degree of invasiveness and cost, and that limits access to screening. Medtech start-ups hope to improve upon this state of affairs by offering new technologies to improve the ease, decrease the discomfort, and increase the efficiency of endoscopic procedures.