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Small Stent Firm Strives for Legitimacy in Big Market

Originally Published MDDI May 2005 NEWSTRENDS Erik Swain

Originally Published MDDI May 2005

NEWSTRENDS



Erik Swain

Among young device companies, one of the most successful in securing financing has been Xtent Inc. (Menlo Park, CA). In March, the firm, which is less than three years old, announced it had raised $25 million in its latest round. It helps, of course, that the company plays in the drug-eluting stent market, the hottest in the device industry. But success so far also comes from forging a novel niche, finding the right partnerships, and choosing the right materials for a technology.

Xtent's technology is not intended to compete with the likes of Johnson & Johnson's Cypher and Boston Scientific's Taxus to treat routine lesions, says Gregory Casciaro, president and CEO. Rather, the firm has designed a long stent to treat larger and more complex lesions. “Our product is a single platform with 60 mm of stent train that you can divide up,” he explains. “That means we have the ability to customize the length of the stent necessary to treat the lesion.”

That has gotten the investment community excited. “Drug-eluting stents are transforming cardiology,” says Robin Bellas, general partner at Morgenthaler Ventures (Menlo Park), the lead venture capital investor in Xtent. “But we have always believed that the current generation of stents was just scratching the surface of potential treatment. Xtent is showing where the next generation of technology will lead.”

Aside from being in a hot market, what is prompting the excitement? Xtent believes a lot of it comes from a decision it made in May 2004. It licensed a drug, Biolimus A9, and a coating from Biosensors International (Bermuda). Like the stent design itself, these are different from components used in the current generation of drug-eluting stents, and thus aren't likely to be the targets of intellectual-property litigation. (The coating is derived from PLA, which is used in bioabsorbable suture materials.) The partnership and the technologies may give the small company legitimacy in a space dominated by industry giants. “That was the right decision at the right time,” says Brian Walsh, Xtent's vice president of sales and marketing.

“I think what will set us apart is that we have designed something that will work for the patient, the physician, and the payer system,” says Casciaro. “We think we can demonstrate that this is a safer way to do the procedure on high-risk patients and show that longer lesions no longer need to be treated with two stents.”

Copyright ©2005 Medical Device & Diagnostic Industry

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