Mardil Medical Inc. has com­pleted the first hu­man impl­ants of its new sur­gi­cal thera­py to re­verse a heart dis­ease called func­tion­al mit­ral valve re­gur­gi­ta­tion (FMR) that Mardil says af­fects near­ly 6 mil­lion Ameri­cans.

Plymouth-based Mardil raised $6.1 mil­lion in 2012, most­ly from a Ma­lay­sian ven­ture fund to which it was intro­duced by Minnesota-based LifeScience Alley. Mardil says its VenTouch sys­tem is less in­va­sive and more eco­nomi­cal than open-heart surgery. A sur­gi­cal team at National Heart Institute in Kuala Lum­pur, Ma­lay­sia im­plant­ed the de­vice in two pa­tients who were very ill and part of a glo­bal clin­i­cal study.

“Our heart team was fas­ci­nat­ed with the ease of place­ment, the im­me­di­ate per­form­ance of the of the VenTouch and the rapid re­cov­er­y of the [two] very sick pa­tients,” Dr. Jeswant Dillon, clin­i­cal di­rec­tor of a­dult sur­ger­y and chief cardiothoracic sur­geon said in a state­ment. The pro­ce­dure was also sup­port­ed by lead­ing sur­geons from the Texas Heart Institute in Houston, New York University Langone Medical Center and To­ron­to General Hospital.

FMR oc­curs when the left ven­tri­cle of the heart is en­larged, the mit­ral valve no long­er clos­es prop­er­ly and the blood flows back into the atrium. Un­treat­ed, the FMR over­loads the en­larg­ing heart and can lead to accelerated heart fail­ure and death. The cur­rent treat­ment re­quires open-heart sur­ger­y.

CEO Jim Buck, a vet­er­an of St. Jude and smaller medical companies, said the suc­cess­ful treat­ment of “two very sick pa­tients” with the Mardil’s VenTouch sys­tem is a significant step to­ward e­ven­tu­al com­mercial­i­za­tion and wide­spread adaptation of “this groundbreaking thera­py.”

The VenTouch tech­nol­o­gy is root­ed in in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty ac­quired large­ly from the form­er Acorn Car­di­o­vascular and another development-stage company that ran out of money.

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

The VenTouch sys­tem, pur­port­ed to be the only de­vice that treats the “root cause of FMR” is a “bio­ma­te­ri­al sleeve fit­ted with an in­flat­able, ad­just­a­ble flu­id cham­ber that ap­plies pre­scrip­tive pres­sure to a tar­get­ed lo­ca­tion in ord­er re­a­lign valve leaf­lets.” In oth­er words, it’s de­signed to solve the prob­lem and re­shape the en­larged heart. The sleeve subsequently can be adjusted through a “port” just under the skin.

Mardil is seek­ing reg­u­la­to­ry ap­prov­al in Eu­rope, Asia and Canada, fol­lowed by an­tic­i­pated U.S. reg­u­la­to­ry ap­prov­al and co­mmer­cial­i­za­tion. More infor­ma­tion:

St. Paul Small-busi­ness own­er re­turns to Ethi­opia to help

Shegitu Kebede, the St. Paul res­tau­ra­teur and im­mi­grant, is in Ethi­opia, plan­ning a school for refu­gees for which she and her sup­port­ers raised more than $20,000.

According to Kebede’s busi­ness part­ner and Jane Graupman, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the nonprofit International Institute of Minnesota, Kebede found a tran­si­tion cen­ter in one camp that hous­es 400 East Af­ri­can chil­dren who are sleep­ing on the ground on plas­tic sheets. Kebede is try­ing to raise an ad­di­tion­al $5,000 for mat­tresses, blan­kets and flash­lights.

The International Institute ( is the fis­cal a­gent and a part­ner in Kebede’s Women at the Well International nonprofit that trains refu­gees in lan­guage and job skills as they pre­pare to im­mi­grate to a west­ern coun­try. Kebede was in­vit­ed to build the school last year by the Unit­ed Na­tions ref­u­gee a­gen­cy.

“This is the camp where Shegitu is going to build the school,” Graupman said last week. “She’s try­ing to make it hap­pen. The av­er­age stay of a per­son in a ref­u­gee camps has grown from two or three [years] to 17 years. They are there for a long time.”

The col­umn I wrote last month about Kebede’s jour­ney from or­phan to ref­u­gee to Minnesota small busi­ness own­er is at: Tax-de­duct­i­ble checks made to International Institute/Tran­si­tion Center for Children can be sent to Frewoini Haile at The Fla­min­go, 490 N. Syndicate St., St. Paul 55104. Fol­low Kebede in Ethi­opia at

Attorney Soule starts next act

George Soule, a vet­er­an Minneapolis at­tor­ney who helped Gov. Arne Carlson and Gov. Jes­se Ven­tu­ra take pol­i­tics out of the ju­di­cial se­lec­tion proc­ess, is branch­ing out on his own.

A found­ing part­ner of the firm Bow­man and Brooke, Soule, 59, is hang­ing out his own shin­gle with an­oth­er Bow­man and Brooke alum, Me­lis­sa Stull. The firm will be known as Soule & Stull with a spe­cial­ty in prod­uct li­a­bil­i­ty cases, com­mer­cial lit­i­ga­tion and dis­pute res­o­lu­tion. The firm’s big­gest cli­ent is I­o­wa-based Ver­meer Corp., a farm in­dus­trial and con­struc­tion e­quip­ment man­u­fac­tur­er.

“It was a good time to make a change. I still have 10 to 15 years left in me, and a new chal­lenge is a good thing,” said Soule, who sat on the Minnesota Commission on Ju­di­cial Se­lec­tion as its vice chairman and its chairman for 11 years. “That was the most re­ward­ing thing I’ve ever done. “

Soule is a mem­ber of the White Earth Na­tion and cur­rent­ly serves on the White Earth Court of Appeals. He said he would like to ex­pand his In­di­an law prac­tice in his new firm. Soule, with 34 years of prac­tice un­der his belt, is a Har­vard Law gradu­ate who counts a­mong his form­er class­mates U.S. Su­preme Court Justice John Roberts.

David Phelps

Target still downtown’s largest, albeit smaller, employer

At the Downtown Council’s annual meeting this month, Target was ranked No. 1 in downtown Minneapolis employers with 12,582 employees, compared with 12,239 in early 2013.

Target confirms it gives the numbers to the Downtown Council for its annual ranking, although it declined to specify when it provided the 12,582 figure.

In late January, Target laid off or declined to fill a total of nearly 1,200 positions systemwide in response to soft business.

Target has declined to specify job cuts or location. Last week, a spokeswoman said Target employs about 12,000 downtown, but that didn’t necessarily reflect a 500-plus drop in employment.

“It is not unusual for our numbers to move up and down throughout the year,” Target’s Jessica Stevens said in an e-mail response. “Therefore, when asked throughout the year, we typically provide a round approximation. As we stated following the position eliminations in January, the number of positions impacted represented a very small percentage of our total headquarters population and was not exclusive to Minneapolis. In addition, as we shared then, we remain committed to investing in key business areas to strengthen our ability to compete and thrive well into the future, and that includes hiring great talent.”

Target is still downtown’s largest employer by a healthy margin. Wells Fargo ranks second with 7,000 employees.

Minnesota doesn’t play in brewing’s Big Ten

Minnesota has the 154-year-old Schell’s Brew­er­y, the 28-year-old Summit Brew­er­y in St. Paul and more than a doz­en new beer mak­ers launched in 2013; at least 10 small and large brew­ers have an­nounced ex­pan­sion plans over the last year. Re­sur­gent northeast Minneapolis has es­tab­lished its “brew dis­trict, ” in­clud­ing Dan­ger­ous Man, 612Brew and In­deed in an un­holy “taproom trini­ty” with­in about a mile from each oth­er; and there are many small brew­ers with names such as Brau Brothers, Excelsior, Ful­ton, Boom Island, Bent Pad­dle and Stillwater’s Lift Bridge.

But we have yet to crack the “Big Ten” of brew­ing states. Minnesota ranks 15th in terms of num­ber of per­mit­ted brew­er­ies and 19th in terms of beer-in­dus­try total eco­nom­ic im­pact of about $4 bil­lion, from brewhouses to whole­sal­ers to re­tail, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est slew of stat­ist­ics from Beer Institute (, the in­dus­try lob­by and sta­tis­ti­cal gath­er­er.

A ma­jor­i­ty of the 948 per­mits is­sued na­tion­al­ly in 2013 were to small “brew­pubs,” driv­ing the in­dus­try to a re­cord-high 3,699 ac­tive “per­mit­ted brew­er­ies,” ac­cord­ing to fed­er­al stat­ist­ics and the Beer Institute. The growth is in small, local brew­ers and spe­cial­ty brands intro­duced by na­tion­al brands.

The Beer Institute an­aly­sis showed that four states ac­count for one-third of all brew­er­ies in the Unit­ed States: Cali­for­nia, Washington, Col­o­ra­do and Or­e­gon.