Kalamazoo-based Ablative Solutions Inc. is being watched as it attracts investment dollars. But another big reason to watch this company is the force of the people behind it.
Namely, the Fischell family.
Tim Fischell, M.D., is a practicing interventional cardiologist and CEO of the company. His brother, David, has a Ph.D. in physics and is chairman of the company.
The Fischells have about 250 medical device patents among them and have started 16 companies and counting.
They, along with medical device sales executive Kevin Plemmons, founded a company that sold for $30 million in 2012. Kalamazoo-based Ostial Solutions LLC, maker of a catheter used to implant coronary artery stents, was sold to South Jordan, Utah-based Merit Medical Systems Inc. The angel investors who’d put $3 million into Ostial — no VCs had participated — made a nice return.
Ablative Solutions is working on a medical device that uses fine catheters to deactivate renal artery nerves — those that support the main artery to the kidney but also contribute to hypertension — without damaging the artery.
In 2013, the company had expected to receive European regulatory approval in late 2014, which would have paved the way for U.S. approval. But a January announcement from Minneapolis-based Medtronic Inc. that testing of its renal denervation device yielded poor results has shaken up the industry. Several other companies testing renal denervation devices have put the brakes on their plans.
Ablative has also reconsidered its plan. U.S. approval might be harder to win now, throwing into question the strategy of getting approval in Europe first.
The plan is still being worked out, Tim Fischell said.
“Medtronic’s failure has raised the bar,” he said. “We’re going to have to do a completely unchallengeable trial.”
Actual sales of Ablative’s device are still two to three years away in a best-case scenario.
But Fischell said he is encouraged by Medtronic’s announcement, because the method used by the Minnesota-based medical device behemoth and others is markedly different from Ablative’s.
Ablative Solutions uses chemicals to destroy renal artery nerves in a way that is more precise and less damaging to artery walls than the energy-based systems employed by other companies, big and small, working on this problem, Fischell said.
The company completed its second round of financing in February, raising $9.5 million. That was on top of a Series A round in which the company raised $5.3 million.
Leading the second round was Petoskey-based BioStar Ventures and Grand Rapids-based Michigan Accelerator Fund, which also participated in the first round.
A follow-on round to bring the B round total to $12.5 million might happen this year, as some VCs have shown interest, Tim Fischell said.
Exit plans are a ways off, but the most likely path would be an acquisition, he said.