Conference exhibit halls are good places to learn about new innovations changing the healthcare marketplace.
And LifeScience Alley’s annual conference Wednesday at the Minneapolis Convention Center was no exception. I had a chance to talk to two companies in detail: Monteris Medical, which recently moved its headquarters from Canada to Minnesota, and Corventis, which is also based in the state, but has offices in San Jose, California as well as a product development operation in Singapore.
Both are medical device companies — after all, we are in Minnesota — but the similarities end there.
The St. Paul company has developed two wearable sensors: one that can detect nonlethal arrhythmia including atrial fibrillation, and the other provides the health status of people living with heart failure and those who retain fluids in their bodies.
The NUVANT Mobile Cardiac Telemetry system needs to be prescribed by a cardiologist and is worn continuously for seven-and-a-half days next to the chest under clothes. The water-resistant device collects data continuously and transmits it to a wireless receiver that is worn with the clip or belt, which in turn transfers so that physicians can access it.
If patients are experiencing an arrhythmia, they can use a small device to trigger an ECG collection manually such that the symptoms can be correlated with an ECG, said Matt Merkert, Corventis’ senior director of marketing. The product was first cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2009.
The second sensor, also cleared by the FDA and available by prescription, is the AVIVO Mobile Patient Management System. It is aimed at people living with heart failure as well as those who have fluid management issues. The sensor tracks heart rate, respiration and activity among other things.
Corventis, which will focus its efforts to ramp up sales of the NUVANT in 2013, is backed by some of the best names in the venture capital industry including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Mohr Davidow Ventures. Merkert declined to disclose how much money the company has raised to date, but some regulatory filings that are often not updated by companies show that Corventis was seeking $30 million in 2009 and raised $10 million. In 2008, an amended filing shows it raised a little more than $20 million. Those filings also show that Corventis was previously named Amigo Therapy.
Another company that also makes a wearable cardiovascular monitor is San Francisco-based iRhythm Technologies, which makes the Zio Patch.
Monteris Medical, based in Plymouth, wants to make the elimination of cancer tumors in the brain less invasive for patients. The company has come up with the NeuroBlate System, which makes a 4.5 mm circular hole in the patient’s skull and uses a laser probe to heat and kill the tumor.
That process is facilitated by a live MRI that helps the surgeon working at a kiosk to see the cancer cells being destroyed and allows him or her to maneuver the laser probe. The MRI essentially picks up the temperature map of the tissue being heated.
“By taking raw data from the MRI, we can integrate thermal tomography into our software and so the physician sees the cancer cells being killed in real time,” explained John Schellhorn, Monteris, president and CEO, to the audience gathered at the conference.
The less-invasive procedure also means that patients can “go home the next day,” Schellhorn said.
What is unique about the technology, other than the fact that it is being performed while the patient is in an active MRI, is that repeat procedures are possible. That is because there is no radiation being used to kill the malignant tumor in the brain, explained W. Keith Sootsman, product/project manager at Monteris. Invasive procedures such as stereotactic radio surgery has limitations because of radiation, he said.
The patient need is tremendous — many brain cancer patients are not candidates for invasive procedures that essentially take a “chunk of your skull out,” Sootsman said.
So far, the company has treated 85 patients and six NeuroBlate (formerly known as AutoLITT, although the company’s website needs to reflect that change) systems have been sold in the U.S.
Another company that also provides MRI-guided neurosurgery is Visualase.