The Year in Seattle Medical Devices, Diagnostics, Health IT

12/23/11Follow @xconomy

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to entry that many U.S. medical device companies say is only getting higher.

Spiral Genetics. This young company is seeking to help scientists do a better job of analyzing the reams of genomic data that are piling up on hard drives as DNA sequencing keeps getting faster and cheaper. Spiral, founded by a couple of UW-Bothell classmates, rolled out its initial products this year that bundle together some of the popular open-source software programs so researchers can perform basic analysis tasks in a matter of hours, not days.

Presage Biosciences. Presage has found its niche in technology that helps drugmakers separate the winners from the losers early in the drug development process, before too much time and money gets wasted. The company, is, however, looking for permanent leadership after CEO Caitlin Cameron stepped down, and is being replaced on an interim basis by board member Jim Towne.

PhysioSonics. The ultrasound company started the year by raising some additional financing from Medtronic and local investor Kirby Cramer, and finished by lining up another $2.5 million defense contract. The aim here is to use ultrasound to monitor brain blood flow, with an automated device that doesn’t require much attention from hospital staff.

Integrated Diagnostics. Leroy Hood’s latest startup, in collaboration with researchers at Caltech, pulled in a small grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation this month to develop a portable diagnostic test for HIV. That project will be in addition to what InDi has been working on for a while now—tests that aim to diagnose Alzheimer’s and lung cancer based on analysis of tiny droplets of blood samples.

Ekos. This was a pretty quiet year for the Bothell, WA-based maker of ultrasound technologies, although back in January it won European approval for its product to treat blood clots in the lungs, known as pulmonary embolisms.

Cerevast Therapeutics. The company once known as ImaRx Therapeutics was reborn as Cerevast, and collected $6.6 million in new financing this fall. Bradford Zakes, an Icos veteran, says this ultrasound-based stroke treatment is now being primed for the third and final phase of clinical trials normally required for FDA approval.

NeuroVista. This company is developing a technology that aspires to alert people when an epileptic seizure is about to strike. NeuroVista has raised a lot of venture capital, but has been keeping a low profile lately, although it did say in February that it got regulatory clearance to expand a clinical trial in Australia.

RF Surgical. This company raised $12 million in September to keep pushing on with its surgical sponges that are embedded with radio-frequency tags. Why, you might ask, does a simple surgical sponge need to go high-tech? So that surgeons don’t forget about the sponges when they’re done, and stitch people up with foreign objects inside them. It happens more often than most surgeons, or hospitals, would like to admit, which is why RF Surgical has been able to build a growing business.

Seattle Children’s Hospital. The local Children’s Hospital doesn’t ordinarily spin out startup companies, but CEO Tom Hansen has led a team that is pushing hard with a new low-cost ventilator that they think has big potential for helping premature infants survive in the developing world. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation agreed to help develop the product further, pumping $2.3 million into the technology in August.

Amnis. Seattle-based Amnis was acquired in August by EMD Millipore, a unit of Germany-based Merck KGaA, for an undisclosed sum. While terms weren’t disclosed, Amnis did say in the takeover statement that it had $14 million in sales in 2010, and the company had been independent and stable for some time, so EMD Millipore almost certainly had to pay a premium to get this maker of scientific instruments.

Cardiac Dimensions. This company has been pretty quiet over the years, but Cardiac Dimensions came out with some news in September when it said it won European approval for its device that tightens up leaky heart valves in heart failure patients. Cardiac Dimensions says it plans to commercialize the device in Europe in 2012.

Cardiac Insight/Aqueduct Neuroscience. These are a couple of startup companies that have spun out of the University of Washington this year, under the guidance of Tom Clement, the founder of Pathway Medical Technologies. Clement described the main idea for Cardiac Insight—a stick-on device to look for a common cause of stroke—back in a November profile.

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  • Paul Buckman is a carpetbagger

    Regarding Pathway, it was not only the early angel investors who got coal in their stockings. All common stockholders got ZERO out of the deal. Employees’ stock options are worthless. CEO Buckman got away with several million in “retention bonus” and the like. Bah humbug.