It may have shelved its manufacturing expansion plans earlier this summer, but Cook Medical Inc. is expanding in other ways, launching a new strategic business unit to develop innovative medical devices for minimally invasive head and neck surgeries.
The Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery Division, being announced today at the annual American Academy of Otolaryngology conference, is kicking off with two offerings: a line of salivary duct access products and the Chiba EchoTip Biopsy Needle. Over the next 12 months, it will launch eight to 10 more devices, said Thomas Cherry, who oversees the new business unit.
Initially, the focus will be on a few key specialties, one of them being the minimally invasive removal of stones or strictures that characterize salivary gland diseases, which Cherry said was a natural fit for Cook because of the company’s existing expertise in comparable procedures in urology. The other five areas of focus are chronic sinusitis, interventional airway procedures, vocal cord paralysis, obstructive sleep apnea and soft tissue repair.
Cherry said the creation of the OHNS Division reflects the company’s mission of using its capabilities to fill unmet needs for patients and physicians. “Wherever we feel we can help patients with our expertise, we are willing to initially take a look and see if it makes sense,” he said.
Cook cited Medtronic, Acclarent, Olympus, Summit Medical, Atos Medical, Atmos Medical and ENTrigue Surgical as competitors in the OHNS space. ENTrigue’s founder, Donald Gonzales, talked about emerging opportunities in the ENT space in a MedCity News article last year, and cited increased investor interest in the space after Johnson & Johnson acquired Acclarent for $785 million in 2009. He noted a gap in treating the 29 million U.S. patients with chronic sinusitis that leaves room for innovative minimally invasive therapies to cut antibiotic usage. Obstructive sleep apnea comprises an even larger market, as noted by Gonzales and market reports, poised to double its value by 2017.
This is the company’s 10th strategic business unit and the most recent since it launched its Interventional Radiology unit in 2009. Last year, the medical device maker brought in about $1.8 billion in revenue.
Although it’s just now being announced, OHNS has been in the works for almost three years, Cherry said, with the seed being planted as he was doing some market research on head and neck surgery for new products in the company’s Critical Care unit.
“There was a missing component, and that was minimally invasive options that could help give the physician and patient a different option than medicine or surgery,” he said. “There was a small group of physicians that were starting to perform minimally invasive procedures, and there was a clear need for a manufacturer with our capabilities to give these specialty physicians the right tools to help perform these procedures.”
Over past two years, the Cook team has been focused on product development, hiring five dedicated engineers and working with inventors from outside the company. Cherry said the OHNS business unit also has a sales force that began working in March of this year.
The company also plans to make its new OHNS products available in Europe by the end of the year.