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A balloon catheter with mounted sensors being developed by MC10, a Boston-area company.

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Medtronic invests in maker of body sensors

  • Article by: JAMES WALSH
  • Star Tribune
  • December 18, 2012 - 8:32 PM

MC10, a private Boston-area company that develops electronics that conform to the human body, has announced that Medtronic Inc. has become an investor in its technology.

Medtronic is one of two stakeholders that are part of a $10 million round of financing into MC10, which started four years ago. In all, MC10 has secured $30 million in financing to date.

Dr. Stephen Oesterle, a senior vice president for Medtronic whose job is to travel the globe in search of new technologies, will work directly with the company, said David Icke, MC10's president and CEO. Rather than focus on any one possibility, Medtronic's interest lies with exploring using MC10's technology "across a wide swath of devices," Icke said Tuesday.

One possibility, for example, would be to put "smart sensing" electronics onto a balloon catheter used in a variety of heart treatments. Another could be to develop sensors that can more easily travel inside other areas of the body. It is all with the idea of giving doctors a better, more precise view of where and on what they are working, Icke said.

In many ways doctors don't have a ton of information about what is going on inside the body. They have X-rays and ultrasounds that essentially take a picture of what is happening. But those images are not live, Icke said.

"In some ways, you're flying blind," he said.

MC10's work could allow doctors to put "dense sensing arrays" up against a beating human heart or right up to the brain.

"As you can imagine, for a device company like Medtronic, particularly given their expertise in electronics, they see our technology as something that is enabling across a wide swath of devices," Icke said.

In a news release on the MC10 website, the company said it "extends human capabilities through virtually invisible and conformal electronics."

It recently announced the first of its consumer products, the Sports Impact Indicator co-developed with Reebok. It is a wearable mesh cap that fits under a helmet and identifies impacts to the head during play.

According to the company, "MC10 is developing products that can be used both on and inside the body, including sensors that monitor head impact, heart rate, brain activity, muscle function, body temperature and hydration, as well as an entirely new class of intelligent medical devices with embedded sensors for enhanced sensing and therapeutic capabilities."

In a statement released through MC10, Oesterle said: "Several of our business units have been collaborating with MC10 for many years, and this investment should catalyze an expanded relationship between our two companies."

However, Medtronic officials on Tuesday would not comment on the relationship, nor provide any details on which particular projects may have captured Medtronic's interest.

Oesterle has said that Medtronic has a minority stake in about 70 companies and he serves on the boards of about 10 start-ups.

James Walsh • 612-673-7428

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