Kona Medical Gets $30M To Zap High Blood Pressure With Ultrasound

5/30/12Follow @xconomy

Ultrasound waves can be engineered to do all kinds of nifty things, from creating high-resolution images of developing fetuses to non-invasive ways of busting up kidney stones. Now a Seattle-area startup called Kona Medical has raised a load of venture capital to pursue a big dream—ultrasound that could treat millions of people with high blood pressure.

The Bellevue, WA-based company, which has kept a low profile since its founding in 2009, is making a splash today by announcing a $30 million Series C venture financing. The investment is being led by what Kona calls “a large medical device company” that doesn’t want to be named, while the rest of the money comes from existing investors Essex Woodlands Health Ventures, Morgenthaler Ventures, Domain Associates, and BioStar. The 18-person company, founded by president and CEO Mike Gertner of Essex Woodlands, plans to use the cash to add more R&D staff at offices in the Bay Area and in Bellevue, WA.

Kona CEO Mike Gertner

Kona’s idea is to use ultrasound to zap overactive nerves around the kidneys that are involved in many of the toughest-to-treat cases of high blood pressure. High blood pressure is already treated with cheap generic drugs that work well for millions of people, which help to minimize their risk of future heart attacks, strokes, and death from heart disease. But an estimated 10 million people have what’s called “resistant hypertension,” which means either that the existing drugs don’t work well enough, or they can’t stick with the treatment schedule.

Researchers have had various ideas over the years, with drugs or devices, on how to treat these resistant hypertension patients, without much success. But Mountain View, CA-based Ardian electrified the field in November 2010, when it showed that its radio-frequency device on the tip of a catheter was able to cauterize those renal nerves, and deliver striking improvements in high blood pressure. Less than one week after presenting that data, Ardian was acquired by medical device giant Medtronic (NYSE: MDT) for $800 million, an impressive sum for a medical device company with no revenue at the time. The clinical findings, and the acquisition, inspired a number of competitors to dive in with similar technologies for treating resistant hypertension, which Bloomberg News recently said is shaping up as a potential new multi-billion market.

“This could be among the biggest medical device markets in history,” says John Bowers, Kona’s new chief operating officer, and a former senior vice president at Bothell, WA-based SonoSite.

For Kona, the news from Ardian provided great timing. That’s because Kona envisions using a different technology to achieve a similar goal. Instead of threading a catheter through the femoral artery in the thigh—a minimally invasive procedure—Kona is attempting to use non-invasive ultrasound waves from the back, that are focused to the precise depth and location to cauterize the renal nerves.

Gertner, an adjunct professor of surgery at Stanford University, was hot on the trail of ultrasound for high blood pressure back in 2009, before Ardian’s breakout moment. He had read … Next Page »

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000772608634 Deb Davis

    My intuition is directing me your way, and I am hoping to learn more about a possibility and more importantly the treatment for hypertension that seems resistant to medication, herbal, dietary and nutrition therapy as well as other forms of naturpathic and less conventional treatments. I consider myself open-minded, and optimistic, yet am growing weary about an actual FIX for this condition that seems to be “life-altering, if not threatening the quality of my life, slowly,but surely. This condition has plaqued me off & on since before I had my first child, or maybe after being diagnosed with strep pneumonia @ age 8 years old, with rheumatic-fever, and Sydenhams Chorea. I’ve had urine tests with rbc’s noted; never been referred to a nephrologist. I had “cyclic” migraines throughout my teen years, and my first child at age 23, with the diagnosis of toxiemia. (6 weeks early) After determining 3+ protein, and edema, and taking IM magsulfate with no effect on BP, C-section was indicated, and BP before delivery was 190/150. I had one miscarriage before and after that, and then a 2nd pregnancy. I am 56 years old, and have tried vaious meds & combinations for ^BP without consistant success. My BP is variant and runs 142+/94+ (at the best lately) Systolic has been as high as 212/ and diastolic as high as 140 ( i think,) other than at pre-C-Section. I am a nurse of 33 years. Predominantly in Peds, have worked Oncology, and Home health and Infusion therapy too…Worked in Peds ER & Diabetes/Endocrinology. I’m consientious about diet and nutrition, recently have struggled with weight gain thru menopause…the meds I take currently are Atenolol, Symvastatin, Adderall, and Lisinipril, FishOil, and Cinnamin supp., CoQ10, and multiVits. About 10 years ago was dx with adult ADD, and found Thyroid nodules-benign at this time. I think you’ll see as i have some things that correlate and make sense in the BIG picture…If you think I maybe able to benefit from this UltraSound therapy…I’d appreciate more information about it and any risks to consider if attempted….Thanks for your continued research and hope for quality of life care! sincerely, Debra Davis in CA. @ okayd93611@yahoo.com

  • http://www.ultrasoundtechniciancenter.org/ Lisa

    It is good to see that private entreprise is contributing to medical research and development, although the possiblity is always present that the contributions made will end up increasing the cost to health-care consumers and insurers-since investors want to see their investments return profit to them rather than being focused on providing services for people. If the possibility is realized, it will no doubt exacerbate the already too great problem of health care costs in the United States, which will not help people as the device is meant to do. Lisa