PhaseRx Angles for a Deal, Tom Clement’s New Device Gig(s), InDi’s Alzheimer’s Plan, & More in the Life Science Innovation Northwest Wrap-Up

3/4/11Follow @xconomy

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a low-cost clever piece of hardware with a proprietary software algorithm, to do a better job of monitoring a form of irregular heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation. About 2.2 million people develop “afib” each year in the U.S., and it’s responsible for 15 percent of all strokes. “If we can identify the patients, we can reduce the risk of strokes. Afib can be silent,” Clement said.

The algorithm is supposed to be 20 times more accurate than competing atrial fibrillation monitors, Clement said. So far, Cardiac Insight has raised about $200,000 in seed capital from Wings, the medical device angel investment network.

—The other UW spinoff company Clement is helping get off the ground is called Acqueduct Neurosciences. The vision for this company comes from Samuel Browd, a pediatric neurosurgeon at UW and Seattle Children’s Hospital, and Barry Lutz, a UW bioengineer. Acqueduct is seeking to treat hydrocephalus, a buildup of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain that occurs in about 1 out of 1,000 live births.

Patients with this disorder get shunts that drain off the excess fluid. It’s a common procedure that Browd performs a lot, and which he said makes him “a glorified plumber.” Shunts developed in the 1960s have brought down the hydrocephalus death rate from more than 50 percent to less than 10 percent in 2005, according to Seattle Children’s Hospital. Yet about 40 percent of the time, existing shunts fail in two years, Browd said. When a shunt fails, doctors place another one, so there’s been little in the way of innovation, Browd said.

Competitors like Medtronic and Codman make these shunts, and although they are marketed as being adjustable to a patient’s physiology to avoid clogging up, they really aren’t adjustable, Browd says. “These devices are static, not smart, and they don’t use modern technology. You can’t see intracranial pressure,” Browd said.

Acqueduct’s idea is to make a shunt device that is adjustable, in that it works against “fouling” or clogging up. It will be able to diagnose when intracranial pressure is building up, and transmit a signal via cell phone that alerts the doctor to a problem—which other devices don’t do, Browd said.

The project has gotten $50,000 in financing from WRF Capital, $150,000 from the state Life Sciences Discovery Fund, and is seeking $1.5 million in capital from the federal Small Business Innovation Research program.

Browd, a young guy who operates on a lot of kids, definitely had a swagger to his presentation that you don’t often see in the buttoned-down Northwest.

“Their valve sucks compared to what we’re doing,” Browd says. “This technology could be a lot better than what’s out there.”

Presage Biosciences, a spinoff from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, had a few tidbits of news to pass along. Jim Olson, the scientific founder, talked about how Presage has carried out an initial project for one of the world’s top two pharmaceutical companies, and apparently is confident enough to say the customer is happy.

“We’re now moving from a project-based relationship with a pharmaceutical customer to a more long-term alliance-based relationship,” Olson said. That means the pharma company would get … Next Page »

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