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.
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.
Mauna Kea Technologies is developing Cellvizio, a tiny confocal laser microscopy system small enough to be inserted into the colon, the urinary tract, the lungs, deep in the brain, and other small spaces in the body. Today, every procedure in gastroenterology--a biopsy or a therapeutic intervention-- is already the second, third, or later step in a process that becomes cumbersome simply because clinicians can't get the relevant information from the first step, which is endoscopy. That's where Cellvizio brings advantages, providing a real-time, in vivo microscopic image of tissue to properly characterize it, so a gastroenterologist can both determine and efficiently carry out the proper course of treatment for a particular patient. Cellvizio's most compelling initial applications include the diagnosis of biliary strictures, Barrett's Esophagus, and colonoscopy.