A Northeast Ohio startup is hoping to build its business around one of the hottest trends in heart attack and brain injury treatment: therapeutic hypothermia.
Life Core Technologies‘ “simple” medical device for inducing hypothermia earlier this month shipped to one of its first customers, Lucas County’s emergency medical service in Northwest Ohio, Life Core CEO Scott Raybuck said.
The Cleveland company’s device resembles a neck-immobilization collar and works via a proprietary chemical that can reach temperatures as low as 25 degrees Fahrenheit 30 seconds after activation, Raybuck said. The chemical allows the collar to cool blood that’s going to the brain, which induces mild hypothermia. The idea is that cooling the brain helps reduce the chances of injury to tissue once bloodflow is restored for patients who’ve suffered from heart attack, stroke or traumatic brain injury. At normal temperatures, a rush of blood to the brain following a traumatic event can damage tissue.
Particularly for heart attacks, therapeutic hypothermia has garnered lots of media attention in recent years, and it has some prominent backers, including David Palestrant, director of neuro-critical care and the stroke program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
“As a neurointensivist treating patients in the ICU, for years I had nothing to offer these patients,” Palestrant told USA Today. “Hypothermia is truly amazing. Patients who you know would have been severely impaired are now leaving the hospital and going on to normal lives.”
Perhaps more importantly to Life Core, therapeutic hypothermia has also captured the imagination of big device firms, as illustrated by three acquisitions over the last two years. Philips Healthcare purchased InnerCool Therapies for about $13 million in 2009; Zoll Medical acquired Alsius for $12 million last year and Stryker bought Gaymar for $150 million last year.
Raybuck refers to Life Core’s device as “the missing link” in therapeutic hypothermia, because it’s designed for use in emergency situations until a patient reaches the ICU. Most other technologies on the market are for longer-term, bedside use, he said.
Life Core, which started up about two years ago and has three employees, is hoping to close a $3 million Series A investment round this year. The company would use the funding to add several employees, including sales managers. Life Core currently has about five customers and is in discussions with about five more, Raybuck said.
Aside from acquirers’ interest in therapeutic hypothermia, Life Core has another advantage: its regulatory pathway. Because the company’s device is “simple” and used externally, it didn’t need to go through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s sometimes-onerous 510(k) clearance process. “That saved us a couple years, and a couple million dollars,” Raybuck said.
The company’s device, the Sandhu Cerebral Cooling Collar, takes its name from its inventor, Dr. Aqeel Sandhu. Sandhu is a “silent partner” with LifeCore and medical director of cardiothoracic surgery at Canton’s Mercy Medical Center.