Renal denervation by ultrasound may set apart Kona in hypertension market

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The hypertension treatment market is hot, with Medtronic leading the way in commercializing a renal denervation device. An estimated two dozen other companies are chasing the medical device heavyweight using the same approach, and today another startup announced that it raised a $30 million series C to add staff and fund clinical trials of its ultrasound renal ablation technology.

While Medtronic, St. Jude and Covidien’s approaches use a catheter to deliver radio frequency energy to ablate the renal nerves, Kona Medical Inc.’s technology uses externally delivered ultrasound energy to do the same job.

“We’re at an earlier stage than those companies, but with this technology there’s the potential to develop a totally noninvasive therapy,” said Kona’s chief operating officer John Bowers. “With ours, we envision a future where this could be done in an office setting.”

An estimated 10 percent to 20 percent of the 78 million U.S. patients with hypertension don’t respond to blood pressure drugs. Ever since Ardian published positive clinical trial results using renal ablation and was promptly acquired by Medtronic in 2010, the procedure has been viewed as a promising option for treating hypertension, topping the Cleveland Clinic’s Top Medical Innovations list last year. In the U.S. alone, the market could be worth $5 billion, Morningstar analyst Debbie Wang estimated.

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Additional competition in Europe includes ReCor Medical’s Paradise system and Vessix Vascular’s V2 Renal Denervation System.

Kona’s $30 million round was led by what the company calls a “large-cap medical technology company,” and existing investors Essex Woodlands, Domain Associates, Morgenthaler Ventures and BioStar Ventures also participated.

Bowers declined to discuss a time line for clinical trials but emphasized that this funding would take Kona to the next level as a company and allow it to move beyond the early feasibility testing it’s done in humans.

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Deanna Pogorelc

By Deanna Pogorelc MedCity News

Deanna Pogorelc is a Cleveland-based reporter who writes obsessively about life science startups across the country, looking to technology transfer offices, startup incubators and investment funds to see what’s next in healthcare. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ball State University and previously covered business and education for a northeast Indiana newspaper.
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