Who will be the next Medtronic? What will be Minnesota's next breakthrough industry? James Walsh will provide the latest information and commentary on the people, companies and trends driving innovation in Minnesota. From visionary entrepreneurs to game changing technologies, this blog offers a window into the future of Minnesota's economy.

Posts about Minnesota entrepreneurs

Northfield med tech startup to begin large pivotal trial

Posted by: James Walsh Updated: January 14, 2014 - 11:24 AM

AUM Cardiovascular, an award-winning Minnesota medical technology startup, is sponsoring a major pivotal study to prove its non-invasive technology can detect obstructive coronary artery disease (CAD) just as well as a Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT) nuclear stress test.

SPECT is the most common nuclear scanning test for diagnosing problems with blood flow to the heart.

AUM’s CADence system is a handheld device, used by a cardiologist, that can quickly spot blockages in blood vessels around the heart after just a few measurements. It uses an algorithm to detect changes in pressure within the blood vessels – changes that could indicate whether those arteries are clogged with plaque.

Marie Johnson, AUM CEO, said CADence is as accurate as a treadmill stress test. Now the study will attempt to prove it.

AUM’s clinical study will enroll 729 patients at 15 trial centers across the United States. Dr. Joseph Thomas, an Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, will chair the study.

Founded in 2008, AUM Cardiovascular has raised over $5 million from angel investors. In competition against 1,000 companies, AUM won the 2011 Minnesota Cup, an annual statewide competition for promising startups. AUM was recently named one of the top 10 start-up companies in the world by the Innovations in Cardiovascular Intervention conference in Tel Aviv, Israel. The company is located in Northfield, MN.

For more information, go to aumcardio.com.

Villafana honored by University of Iowa

Posted by: James Walsh Updated: December 9, 2013 - 10:26 AM

Got this notice from the University of Iowa:

Medical device pioneer

Manny Villafana will receive an Honorary Doctor of Science Degree in recognition of his contributions to biomedical device development, biomedical engineering, civic leadership, and student success. He’ll be awarded the degree at the May 17 College of Engineering commencement.

Portrait of Manny Villafana
Manny Villafana

“Manny Villafana rose from modest beginnings to become one of the world’s preeminent innovators in the area of medical devices,” says UI College of Engineering Dean Alec Scranton. “His amazing ability to identify and develop important new medical devices has touched countless lives.”

Villafana worked with companies Picker International and Medtronic before launching a career as an entrepreneur. In 1971, he launched Cardiac Pacemakers, Inc., which revolutionized the field with the long-life lithium iodine pacemaker, a technology that still makes up most of the market.

He also founded Guidant Corporation to focus on cardiovascular health care products; St. Jude Medical, which introduced the bi-leaflet mechanical heart valve; GV Medical, manufacturer of a device to open blood vessels; Helix BioCore (later ATS Medical), whose bi-leaflet valve reduced clots and improved blood flow; and CABG Medical to create an artificial graft for coronary bypass surgery.

In 2007, Villafana launched Kips Bay Medical, a medical device company that focuses on developing, manufacturing and commercializing its proprietary external saphenous vein support technology, or eSVS MESH®, for use in coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) surgery. He currently serves as founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Kips Bay Medical.

Villafana and his wife Elizabeth Elder Villafana—a UI Tippie College of Business alumna—are strong supporters of the UI College of Engineering. He helped develop the college’s biomedical engineering department into the nationally recognized program it is today, and provided gifts to establish the Elder Computer Laboratory and enhance facilities available to all UI engineering students.

Maple Grove med tech startup to "Get in the Ring"

Posted by: James Walsh Updated: November 18, 2013 - 3:03 PM

St. Teresa Medical, a medical-device startup from Maple Grove, competes tonight in the final round of "Get in the Ring: The American Startup Clash." Folks can watch the stream at 7 p.m. Central Time and cast votes for their favorite startup at www.Kauffman.org/GITR.

The company is commercializing a new technology called FASTCLOT that stops bleeding more quickly and has less potential for adverse side effects than current products, according to company officials.  

FASTCLOT combines a fiber dressing “delivery system” with two human-derived clot-forming proteins. When applied, the dressing rapidly dissolves and speeds the formation of a clot over a bleeding injury. It is also quickly absorbed. Other such products are either applied as a patch or with a syringe, making them less user-friendly for the surgeon, St. Teresa said. The product can be used in surgical, trauma, dental, veterinary, military and consumer applications.

The company has conducted 12 pre-clinical studies. Two FASTCLOT products are being used on dogs and horses with “excellent results,” officials said. The company anticipates European regulatory approval for human use in mid-2014 and in the United States in early 2016.

St. Teresa Medical was founded 2010. The company is one of eight organizations from seven states facing off in the final round tonight. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is hosting the first-ever U.S. competition and will live stream the competition for the title of America’s most promising entrepreneur.

A cash prize of $10,000 will be awarded to the top U.S. finisher; $5,000 will go to the runner-up. Online viewers will be able to vote for the "audience favorite" via a special URL to be announced during the event.

In addition to the cash prize, the startup named U.S. champion will travel the next day to the Nov. 22 Get in the Ring global finals in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. That entrepreneur will face seven other international finalists, selected from 30 participating nations, for a chance to secure angel investment from a potential pool of €1,000,000, or approximately $1.3 million.

The U.S. finalists were selected from 283 applicants from around the country. They are:

Drazil Foods, Edina, Minn.

EyeVerify, Kansas City, Kan.

MANA Nutrition, Matthews, N.C.

POPVOX, Redwood City, Calif.

REPP, Cincinnati

St. Teresa Medical, Inc., Maple Grove.

Travefy, Lincoln, Neb.

weeSpring, New York

Get in the Ring was founded in 2009 by the Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship in the Netherlands to bring the world's most promising entrepreneurs together with those who can help them succeed and to inspire others to start their entrepreneurial journeys. The international finals are held each November during Global Entrepreneurship Week.

Versant Ventures plans to open a Twin Cities office

Posted by: Updated: June 25, 2012 - 3:21 PM

California-based Versant Ventures said it will open a Twin Cities office next month.

The venture firm invests in early-stage medical device and biotech firms out of a $500 million fund.

Versant is an active investor in Minnesota companies. Versant has funded local medical device firms Lutonix, Zyga Technology and RespiCardia, as well as healthcare technology business RedBrick Health. Lutonix, which makes drug-coated balloon catheters, sold for $225 million last year to New Jersey-based medical technology company C.R. Bard.

Kirk Nielsen, a Versant managing director, said he believes Minnesota is a great place to build companies.

“Our opening of an office there is a sign of our long-term commitment to the region,” Nielsen said.

Nielsen will be only investment professional in the Twin Cities office. Prior to joining Versant, he was a sales representative for Medtronic’s Cardiac Rhythm Management division.

Versant currently has three offices in Menlo Park, Newport Beach and San Francisco, California.

Minnesota Science and Technology Authority lacks funding

Posted by: Updated: June 22, 2012 - 4:36 PM

The Minnesota Science and Technology Authority faces yet another financial setback.

The group, focused on creating high-paying science and technology jobs in the state, failed to get the $10 million it requested from the state Legislature for the second time in a row.

Instead, the authority will operate on $107,000, not enough to fund all of its programs and two staff members.

“It’s disappointing,” said executive director Betsy Lulfs.

The state set up the authority in 2010. The authority’s advisory commission, made up of officials from the public and private sectors, sought $10 million a year for programs such as advising entrepreneurs and backing promising technologies.

But the Legislature only awarded the group roughly $350,000 for programs last year, which helped pay for student scholarships and assisting companies with federal grants.

Now, the authority will operate on even less —$107,000.

By the end of the month, Becky Aistrup, the authority’s program director for Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer grants, will leave her position.

She’s accepted a job as a consultant for Michigan-based BBCetc.

That leaves only one staff member — Lulfs. The authority will work on asking for the same amount of money next year, Lulfs said.

“We’re back to where we started,” she said.


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