Mirabilis Medica Aims to Help Women Avoid the Dreaded Hysterectomy

6/22/09Follow @xconomy

It only takes about 30 minutes from downtown Seattle to get to what some people like to call the “Silicon Valley of Ultrasound,” in Bothell, WA. So when I heard about another ultrasound startup company, one with a name that comes from the Latin word for “miraculous,” I figured it was worth checking out.

There’s actually a lot more substance to the story than that. Bothell, WA-based Mirabilis Medica doesn’t claim to have achieved any miracles. But it has a pretty ambitious goal. Its team of engineers are building an ultrasound machine that is supposed to offer a non-invasive way to get rid of uterine fibroids. The technology has potential to help relieve symptoms of these painful growths in the uterus that are the leading reason so many women get hysterectomies after their childbearing years.

The problem, and market opportunity, is a big one. As many as one out of five women in the U.S. suffer from fibroids, according to the National Institutes of Health. Women can take drugs, or get a couple of different surgical procedures, but the only cure is a radical one—complete removal of the uterus, a hysterectomy. About 625,000 women get hysterectomies in the U.S. each year, and about half of the time it is because they have uterine fibroid growths that cause painful cramping and bleeding, says Mirabilis CEO Mike Connolly. So if Mirabilis can come up with a way to get rid of these fibroids, without a doctor having to pull out a scalpel, it forecasts it will tap into a new market worth $1 billion a year.

“Right now, it’s basically like doctors are hitting a fly with a sledgehammer,” Connolly says.

Mirabilis, like practically every ultrasound company in Bothell, can trace its family tree to the University of Washington. The company got started in 2004, by Alex Lebedev on business, Shahram Vaezy on technology, and Michael Lau, a practicing gynecologist in Edmonds, WA, on the medical side. Connolly joined the company in October 2006, after he got an up-close look at the technology when he was a principal with vSpring Capital, an early investor. Besides vSpring, the company has raised about $11 million since the beginning from Charter Life Sciences, Arboretum Ventures, Split Rock Partners, and Dow Chemical.

The Mirabilis technology has two critical components. One uses the diffuse, low-intensity waves of diagnostic ultrasound to help doctors look inside the body and pinpoint the location of the fibroids. The other element is a high-intensity, tightly-focused therapeutic wave of ultrasound. That part is supposed to heat up tissue just enough to kill fibroid cells without causing any collateral damage or side effects.

Mirabilis has about 10 employees, including some engineers from one of the few successful therapeutic ultrasound companies, Liposonix, which uses ultrasound for body sculpting. The technical challenge … Next Page »

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