Archus Orthopedics, Spine Device Maker that Raised $60M, Shuts Down Amid Cash Crunch

9/3/09Follow @xconomy

Archus Orthopedics, the Redmond, WA-based developer of implants to help people retain flexibility after back surgery, is shutting down its operations and dissolving after it was unable to raise enough capital to bring the product all the way to the U.S. market, Xconomy has learned.

Archus filed paperwork with the Delaware Secretary of State to dissolve the company and wind down the business, according to a legal notice on The Seattle Times website. Archus CEO Jim Fitzsimmons, reached by phone, said he had no comment.

We broke the story back in May about financial troubles at Archus, which had been one of the rising stars in the Seattle medical device industry for years. The company had a veteran medical device entrepreneur in Fitzsimmons as CEO, and raised more than $63 million in equity since its founding 2001 from a group of big-name venture firms—MPM Capital, InterWest Partners, Polaris Venture Partners, and Johnson & Johnson Development Corporation, as well as a loan from GE Capital. Cash ran low this spring when Archus was sponsoring a big clinical trial of 450 patients, and it was forced to lay off most of its 45 employees. In the last few months, it tried to find a partner or some other way to finish the clinical trials it needed to start marketing its experimental device.

“Although Archus Orthopedics has been performing very well, we have the unfortunate luck to be a relatively mature, but still pre-revenue company, in need [of] sustaining capital in an extremely challenging financing market,” Fitzsimmons said in a statement back in May.

Archus had been developing artificial facet (fuh-set) joints in the spine, with a technology called the Total Facet Arthroplasty System. These facet joints—not to be confused with artificial spinal discs—play a role every time we bend forward, bend backward, or twist laterally. These joints typically get fused together when people have back surgery, because conventional wisdom says cutting down movement will reduce the pain. It also greatly cuts down on people’s mobility, and puts extra pressure and twisting movements on the non-fused parts of the spine, Fitzsimmons said.

One patient who received an Archus implant, Larry Kirschner of Baton Rouge, LA, said he was disappointed to hear of the dissolution because his device worked “superbly.”

Kirschner, a 62-year-old microbiologist, had his surgery in May 2006. Six weeks later, he helped load a moving truck and drove it more than 1,600 miles from Pasadena, CA to Baton Rouge. Last year, he felt good enough to go on a snowshoeing and camping trip above 9,000 feet in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

“The Archus device freed me from the vast majority of the debilitating pain I was experiencing (there is still a small spot on my right shin that aches a little from time to time, but nothing significant),” Kirschner wrote in an e-mail. “I haven’t started in-line skating again but may this winter when things cool off around here.”

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