CHAGRIN FALLS, Ohio — Cleveland-area medical device maker CerviLenz Inc. has closed on a $4 million funding round that will take its product, which promises to help cut the number of preterm births, through clinical trials and into the market as early as next year.
The company is developing a disposable device that measures the length of a woman’s cervix to help predict risks of preterm birth. It is potentially easier, less costly and just as accurate as the transvaginal ultrasound device used in only high-risk pregnancies.
CerviLenz thinks its $30 device could make cervical checks common during pregnancy — particularly since physicians can use the information to administer progesterone, which can drastically cut the risk of many preterm births. It has already received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is in the midst of national and international clinical trials.
“What weâ€™re trying to do is when we go to market have all the evidence for adoption,” said Dean Koch, a former vice president at the women’s health manufacturer Adeza who is now CerviLenz’s chief executive officer.
Arboretum Ventures and Chrysalis Ventures combined on the Series A funding. Tim Peterson and Koleman Karleski, managing directors at Arboretum and Chrysalis, respectively, will sit on CerviLenz’s five-member board of directors.
Karleski referred to preterm births as a “$30 billion problem” — roughly the annual cost of preterm births in the United States. But the problem is even greater than that. The increase in premature infants is considered the primary reason infant mortality has plateaued.
The number of preterm babies has increased by nearly one-third since the 1980s, though it dropped slightly in the most recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionâ€™s National Center for Health Statistics. Preterm children also made up two-thirds of all infant deaths, according to the CDC.
“Itâ€™s an economic issue,” Karleski said. “And it’s a family issue and a health issue.”
Petersen stated in a press release that new treatments for preterm births “have created a huge need for an easy-to-use, inexpensive screening technology to identify women at risk for preterm birth.”
“The company is in the right place at the right time with the right product,â€ Petersen stated.
Koch said CerviLenz will hire five to 10 new employees over the next year to sell and market the device.
[Front-page photo courtesy of Flickr user zzzack]