Inside track: Malaysia backs Minnesota med-tech start-up

  • Article by: NEAL ST. ANTHONY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 9, 2013 - 9:19 PM
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A Malaysian government investment fund has invested $5 million in Mardil Medical. Pictured are CEO Mark Rozario of Agensi Inovasi Malaysia and Mardil CEO Jim Buck, right.

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In a slumping U.S. venture capital market, Plymouth-based Mardil Medical just raised an amount equivalent to one-third of that raised by Minnesota companies in the entire fourth quarter of last year. And $5 million of the $6.1252 million came from a Malaysian venture fund chartered by that Asian government.

Minneapolis-based LifeScience Alley, the regional trade group, made the connection for Mardil through its international network.

In an interview last week, Mardil CEO Jim Buck, a veteran of St. Jude Medical Inc. and a fledgling med-tech company that he sold at a rich premium, said U.S. venture capitalists remain concerned about the slow pace of federal regulatory approvals and unable to raise fresh funds after the recession and concerns over reduced health care spending and reforms.

“Six or seven years ago, we would have been able to raise venture money here,” said Buck, 50. “The venture groups who survived the downturn … have not been able to raise new funds. They are focusing their dollars on sustaining their current investments ... later-stage med-tech and life-science companies.

“I moved this company from Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, to Minnesota because the talent is here and I can do everything I need from Plymouth.”

Buck said Mardil’s flagship product will enhance outcomes and reduce cost, so it’s ironic he couldn’t raise U.S. financing, other than the $1 million put in by company insiders.

Mardil’s “VenTouch” system is a minimally invasive implantable device designed to treat moderate and severe functional mitral valve regurgitation, a condition affecting more than 600,000 people in the United States and that often leads to heart failure. The current approach requires heart surgery.

The $6.1 million in fresh capital, on top of $5 million invested several years ago, will allow Mardil to complete final development of the VenTouch system, conduct clinical ­trials and get regulatory approval in Europe, Asia and Canada, followed by anticipated U.S. regulatory approval and commercialization.

The VenTouch technology is rooted largely in intellectual property and assets that it acquired from the former Acorn Cardiovascular, which ran out of money after $110 million and several years of tests, as well as another company that ran out of cash, Myocor.

“Our approach is less invasive, less costly and directly addresses the underlying root cause of the condition in a safe fashion,” he said.

dell’s deal to go private could be a boost for Eden Prairie unit, former exec says

 

Phil Soran, who sold his publicly held Compellent data-storage company to Dell in a cash deal of about $800 million two years ago, said he thought last week’s announced privatization of Dell Computer would be good for the Eden Prairie-based unit of Dell Storage.

“Michael Dell has said he wants to invest in enterprise-type products, which fits Compellent’s sweet spot,” Soran said in an interview last week. “I’m not privy … but I hope Compellent is a big part of it.”

Soran left what is now Dell Compellent last year. The unit has grown from about 550 to 850 jobs since the Dell acquisition and leased additional space in Eden Prairie.

A Dell Compellent spokeswoman said Dell’s data-storage research team is based in Eden Prairie and that the number of customers has more than doubled to 6,000 since 2011.

Last week, Dell announced one of the largest Compellent-related deals ever, a sale of storage technology to the Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology with an initial capacity of three petabytes, or the equivalent of 60 million four-drawer filing cabinets filled with text.

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