Westlake Center is the place in Seattle to shop, people watch, or protest. It’s not exactly ground zero for hotshot medical device startups. But to Amp Orthopedics, the town’s downtown retail core was as good a place as any to pursue its dream of making a fortune by soothing the ailing knees and shoulders of the baby boomers.
“We got a great deal on the rent,” Eric Dremel, Amp’s CEO, said with a shrug.
Now that Occupy Seattle has disappeared from outside his window, Amp is looking to execute this year on its plan with minimal distractions. This time a year ago, it raised the first $9.5 million out of what ended up being an $18 million Series A financing from angel investors. The company is seeking to prove that its pulse radiofrequency device can help reduce pain and swelling that patients get after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery or rotator cuff surgery. The idea is that Amp’s simple copper-wire device could help reduce the need for narcotic pain meds, and it might reduce healthcare costs by shortening hospital stays.
The opportunity is big and growing fast, as about 130,000 people a year who are estimated to get total knee replacements in the U.S., and another 650,000 get arthroscopic cleaning and smoothing procedures.
“The volume of operations is only increasing because of the boomers,” Dremel says.
Even if Amp only captures 5 percent of the potential market for knee surgeries and 7.5 percent of the potential shoulder surgeries, it could have a $75 million annual business after five years, he says. If all goes well, Amp could be selling its device for at least one of these uses before the end of 2012, he says.
The technology at Amp is pretty basic. The device combines a signal generator, a copper wire, a tiny watch battery, and a small circuit board. Ivivi Health Sciences, the San Francisco-based parent company of Amp, owns a form of the device which has been approved by the FDA since 2008 to help relieve pain and swelling in soft tissues as patients recuperate from surgery. The vision at Amp is essentially to make a customized variation of the device, which encases the copper wire in a flexible-yet-sturdy plastic bracket that a patient can easily wear on a healing knee or shoulder (without getting the wire bent out of shape.) With the new custom knee-and-shoulder devices in hand, Amp’s mission is to run clinical trials that can yield evidence compelling enough to convince doctors they need more than the usual post-operative pain meds.
Dremel comes to this project after a long career with experience in sales and marketing at Stryker, Johnson & Johnson’s DePuy unit, and an entrepreneurial stint at San Francisco-based Moximed. Tony Robins, an orthopedic surgeon who worked with Dremel previously at Moximed, has joined as … Next Page »