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: www.mardil.com.
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 (www.iimn.org) 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: www.tinyurl.com/kjdddzc. 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 www.iimn.org/about/iimn-blog.
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.
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 (www.beerinstitute.org), 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.