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Mirador Biomedical Seeks to Prevent Hospital Errors with Simple Digital Sensor

Justin Hulvershorn learned in medical school about one of the everyday procedures done in hospitals, when a patient has a catheter inserted into a central vein to deliver fluids or drugs. In one memorable moment from about 10 years ago, the medical professional missed the vein and hit one of the biggest arteries that carries blood to the lower half of the body, the femoral artery.

Blood was everywhere.

“It was horrifying,” Hulvershorn says. “It stuck in my mind.”

Mistakes like that one, and the life-threatening emergency it created, are what Hulvershorn and his colleagues are seeking to prevent at a Seattle-based startup called Mirador Biomedical. The Seattle-based company has developed a low-cost pressure sensor designed to be incorporated into a syringe and guide wire used to insert the catheter. This tool provides doctors with a digital readout on the pressure of the blood flow in the vessel it has reached, which provides an obvious readout that can show the difference between a high-pressure artery and a low-pressure vein. This sort of tool could be incorporated into central venous procedures that are performed 6 million times a year in the U.S., and could have potential to prevent thousands of mistakes that can cause severe complications, or even death.

The company, with a shoestring budget and just a $1.1 million investment in March, has pulled together a business plan, intellectual property, prominent medical device advisors like Pathway Medical founder Tom Clement and NeuroVista CEO John Harris, and an application to the FDA to start marketing its simple product, possibly as soon as the end of this year. It’s not a classic blockbuster opportunity of the kind that venture capitalists like to bet on, but Mirador hopes that it can get this first product on the market generating revenue, and then build follow-on products to help the company grow.

Karl Schmidt

Karl Schmidt

“There’s nothing else out there like this,” says Mirador CEO Karl Schmidt. “It’s a simple product, but nobody has come up with it.”

Mirador got started in some grim circumstances. Schmidt, 38, and Hulvershorn, 36, got to know each other when they worked together at Seattle-based Northstar Neuroscience, which shut down in January 2009 after its lead product candidate failed in a clinical trial. Schmidt was the head of global marketing, and Hulvershorn was the director of research. They found they had complementary skills at Northstar, and when the company started winding down, they decided to try creating a startup.

They scoped out various university tech transfer offices for ideas to license, but nothing there really grabbed them. Then they started combing through scientific literature to brainstorm about other ideas, and started homing in on errors in hospitals that threaten patient safety. Suddenly, the vivid memory of what happened to that patient came back to Hulvershorn when he started investigating the problems of catheter insertion.

Traditionally, medical pros who insert central vein catheters (“central lines” in hospital lingo) would look at the color of the blood flowing back into the syringe. If it was dark blue, that meant it was from a vein. Bright red meant the line was in an artery.

This method wasn’t entirely reliable, so doctors over the past couple decades … Next Page »

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