Alan Bignall, founder of Biolyst/ Realief Neuropathy Centers

, Star Tribune

Philip Walter

, Star Tribune

Inside Track: Laser treatment impressed this CEO

  • Article by: NEAL ST. ANTHONY
  • Star Tribune
  • June 16, 2012 - 9:23 PM

ReconRobotics CEO Alan Bignall was so pleased with therapeutic laser treatment of his "peripheral neuropathy" in 2010 that he decided to start a treatment-related company that's raised $2.4 million from individual investors.

More than 40 million Americans experience the progressive symptoms of the damaged-nerve disease that includes leg pain, muscle weakness, numbness and balance problems that often is attributed to diabetes, after-effects of chemotherapy or infections.

The condition, typically treated with drugs and physical therapy, has no sure-fire cure. Bignall, 61, said he got no relief from traditional medical treatment.

Chiropractor Tim Kelm, who treated Bignall, has opened in St. Louis Park the first of several planned Realief Neuropathy Centers franchises. Kelm claims a high level of success in reducing symptoms of more than 1,500 patients using a series of Class IV therapeutic lasers that feel like a "soothing heating pad" to stimulate deep tissue over a prescribed series of visits.

Phil Walter, 62, a Twin Cities investor, ReconRobotics board member and onetime CEO of Altera Law Group, is CEO of Biolyst , the parent and franchisor of Realief centers. Bert Weigel a former St. Jude Medical executive, is head of marketing and sales. Biolyst retained Naomi Ruff, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego, to study 100 consecutive patients treated by Kelm, 87 percent of whom reported marked reductions in pain and numbness.

"I'm not one for hyperbole when it comes to medical things ... but I haven't met a patient who hasn't been helped," Walter said. "The drugs used today for relief of pain are anti-convulsive and anti-depressant drugs with a panoply of side effects. There is no medical cure. The treatments we provide address all symptoms."

Walter projects a profitable, $30 million-revenue business within five years. The regimen can cost up to $2,500. Biolyst wants to persuade insurers that the treatment can be more effective than drugs and traditional medical approaches. More info at


The "lean process improvement team" at Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota is making economical strides while improving patient care. We'll need more of this -- from insurance providers to smarter consumers -- to achieve the lower cost-to-better outcomes ratio of leading industrial countries.

Children's says since inception of "lean" in 2006, the multifacility system has realized $11 million in savings, cut medication waste by 40 percent, switched to a self-designed "trigger system" that has reduced medical supply inventory replenishment time and the time nurses need to track supplies, and vastly improved the operations and turnaround times of its laboratories. Children's lean program was lauded in 2011 by the Minnesota Alliance for Patient Safety.

Children's also reports that patient volumes have increased in emergency rooms, but triage times have declined and patient satisfaction has risen. Moreover, documentation streamlining means nurses are spending 25 percent less time on paperwork and more time with patients.

"Our objective is for the rate of care to be limited only by the natural course of the disease under optimal treatment, not by waiting to be seen, failures of communication or coordination, flawed handoffs, unnecessary pain, errors or delays in diagnosis or treatment, or medical accidents," said Dr. Chris Robison.  



The Bloomington-based house of nerds, who already have outgrown several buildings, nearly doubled revenue to $26.4 million in 2011. Employment of the nine-year-old company has grown from 70 to 358 since the recession bottomed in the spring of 2009.

The nerds, founded in 2003 by three irreverent programmers, permit dogs, chess matches, rock concerts, happy hour and more at the office. They claim to have served more than 800 clients who range from AmericInn Hotels to Cold Spring Granite, Calvin Klein, Boys and Girls Club of America and Caring Bridge.

Flyover 50 winners were recognized this month at the 2012 Association for Corporate Growth Mid-America Conference in Kansas City. Other Minnesota firms on the Flyover 50 include MentorMate and mPay Gateway.


Ecolab CEO Doug Baker told an investor conference last week that the integration of the recent high-stakes merger with Nalco is "off to a very good start" and that most of the "surprises were positive."

The world's growing population and resource shortages will drive the need for water and energy conservation from oil-and-gas fields to food production, processing and transportation. Baker's bet is that Ecolab innovation in its legacy cleaning-products businesses and Nalco's water-treatment trade will drive business.

Investors so far are convinced: The stock continues to trade near all-time highs of about $66.

"We're just going to do it in a way that makes sense environmentally, " Baker said.


Neal St. Anthony • 612-673-7144 •

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