Made in Colorado: Pharmaceuticals and medical technology
Learning you need life-saving surgery to replace a malfunctioning heart valve can be an emotional jolt. But the aftershocks that follow are almost as hard for even the sturdiest of patients to withstand, according to Larry Blankenship, CEO of ValveXchange.
“If you have heart-valve disease, you have bad choices today,” Blankenship said, explaining his company’s mission to make its revolutionary valve called Vitality the dilemma-solver. Either you choose a long-lasting mechanical valve that condemns you to a life of dangerous blood thinners and a sedentary lifestyle, or you choose a tissue valve that requires major replacement surgery as often as every 15 years.
ValveXchange’s two-part heart valve involves one-time placement of a permanent support frame, which surrounds exchangeable tissue leaflets (the flaps that open and close, keeping blood flowing in the right direction). When those leaflets need to be replaced in 15 to 20 years, the exchange involves a minimally invasive procedure rather than open-heart surgery.
The research is backed by $2.5 million in National Institutes of Health grants, and Vitality valves already have been implanted in three patients.
Emerging infectious diseases, caused by tiny, often vector-borne viruses, are creating a gigantic health crisis across the globe, and Inviragen is poised to make a far-reaching difference.
“Inviragen is focusing on developing vaccines for infectious diseases worldwide,” said Dr. Dan Stinchcomb, the company’s co-founder and CEO. “Vaccines are the most cost-effective means of improving public health, and the vaccines we are working on serve very significant needs.”
Most notably, Inviragen’s exclusive license on a dengue vaccine from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has led the company to develop DENVax, a vaccine that has shown promise in clinical trials. Mosquito-borne dengue fever threatens 3.6 billion people, or more than half the world population, with more than 100 million infected each year, according to the CDC. It is a leading cause of illness and death in the tropics and subtropics.
There is no effective treatment for dengue fever, or some of the other diseases Inviragen has targeted, such as the common pediatric illness Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease. A particularly virulent form of the disease affects millions of young children in Asia, leading to more severe fevers, hospitalizations and death.
For medical personnel, losing patients from rapid blood loss before life-saving measures can be determined has been a harsh and longtime reality. So far, no technology has existed that can tell how much time patients have before blood loss turns fatal, whether it’s at an accident scene, in an emergency room or on the battlefield.
Now Flashback Technologies, through a partnership with the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research, has developed a robotic system that can rapidly relay real-time, noninvasive vital-sign data in the field or at a trauma center to detect blood loss and accurately predict risk for cardiovascular collapse.
“The way we currently take care of trauma patients with blood loss is to monitor their heart rate, their blood pressure, give them some fluid to see if their heart rate goes down,” said Dr. Steve Moulton, a surgeon and founder and CMO of Flashback Technologies. “Things we do currently are very much just images or points in time. The technology we developed is a continuous technology.”
Moulton, who hopes to see a first device on the market in 2013, said the technology has other medical applications, such as measuring fluid loss (dehydration) and intracranial pressure (brain injury).
Amgen, Boulder and Longmont
ARCA biopharma, Broomfield
GlobeImmune Inc., Louisville
MBC Pharma Inc., Aurora
Sharklet Technologies Inc., Aurora
Terumo BCT, Lakewood
medical technologies for animals
VetDC Inc., Fort Collins
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