59.1 F
Laguna Hills
Sunday, Dec 3, 2023

Lung Device Startup Moving HQ to Irvine

Uptake Medical Corp., a Seattle medical device maker that recently raised $17.5 million in venture funding, is moving its headquarters to Irvine.

The company, which is working on a device for treating lung diseases, is moving to Orange County because Chief Executive King Nelson and others live here.

Uptake’s sales, marketing, clinical, regulatory and finance operations are coming to Irvine, according to Nelson. The company’s technical group will stay in Seattle, he said.

The move to Irvine is set to finish by year’s end.

Uptake currently employs about 25 people. It’s unclear how many people it will employ in Irvine.

The company’s device uses a catheter to deliver steam vapor to scar tissue and seal shut airways in patients with emphysema and other lung conditions.

The treatment is designed to allow remaining healthy lung tissue to expand and function normally.

The device isn’t approved for use in the U.S. or in Europe. Uptake plans to use its recent venture funding to pursue European approval and sales by 2011.

The company is in a pilot study with the Food and Drug Administration and has a trial under way in Western Europe and Australia.

Uptake could start a U.S. trial by late 2011, according to Nelson. The process could take two to three years to complete before the company can seek FDA approval.

The company is going after a large market. Figures from the Norwalk, Conn.-based National Emphysema Foundation show that an estimated 3.1 million Americans have the disease.

Emphysema often develops in smokers and is often found in conjunction with chronic bronchitis, a condition known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Some 11.6 million Americans have that disease, according to the foundation.

Emphysema is pricey to treat, costing U.S. insurers, governments and healthcare providers some $5 billion to $9 billion a year.

Traditional treatments include inhalers, oxygen, medications and surgery to relieve symptoms and prevent complications.

Surgery is effective but has high mortality rates, according to Nelson.

Interventional pulmonologists and thoracic surgeons are Uptake’s target markets, Nelson said.

The company is looking to sell its device through a mix of direct salespeople and distributors.

Uptake plans to use contract manufacturers to produce its device.

Maverick Capital of Dallas led the company’s recent investment, its second round of funding.

Uptake “offers a much-needed solution” to help patients who have severe emphysema, said Eric Kim, a Maverick managing director. Kim joined Uptake’s board with the funding.

Prior investors also participated in the funding, including Australia’s GBS Venture Partners; Menlo Park-based Onset Ventures; Seattle-based WRF Capital; Arboretum Ventures of Ann Arbor, Mich.; and Minneapolis-based Affinity Capital.

Uptake was founded in 2004 and raised $9 million in a first round of funding in 2006. The investment brings its total raised to more than $30 million.

In an interview last year with Xconomy.com, a business and technology website, Uptake said it didn’t expect to “grab the first-mover advantage” when it comes to treating emphysema.

Instead of being first to market, “our approach is focused on getting good lung volume reductions, and doing it more safely, more quickly and more efficiently,” Nelson told Xconomy.com.


Uptake’s competitors include Pulmonx Corp., based in Redwood City, and Spiration, a venture-backed company based in Redmond, Wash., which developed a minimally invasive valve to treat emphysema that received FDA approval in 2008.

Spiration was acquired last month by Japan’s Olympus Corp. for an undisclosed price. Olympus and Spiration were partners for several years.

Olympus makes bronchoscopes that doctors use to implant Spiration’s valves, which block off air flow to damaged regions of the lungs.

Robert Barry, who formerly worked with Spiration, founded Uptake and serves as its chief technical officer.

Rox Medical Inc., a venture-backed company out of San Clemente, also is working on a device to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Nelson said his management team’s objective is to build the company to be successful on its own. There always is the possibility of becoming a “pulmonary franchise” of a larger company or doing an initial public offering, he said.

“When we think about people who might have an interest, you think about the natural players,” Nelson said.

Those include New Brunswick, N.J.-based Johnson & Johnson, Covidien Ltd., which operates from Massachusetts, Natick, Mass.-based Boston Scientific Corp., Abbott Laboratories of suburban Chicago and Minneapolis-based Medtronic Inc.

Nelson joined Uptake in 2007. His background includes 19 years with American Hospital Supply Corp. and Baxter International Inc.

He also was chief executive of VenPro Corp., an Irvine developer of replacement heart valves and valves to treat vein diseases. Medtronic bought VenPro’s heart valve business in 2001.

Want more from the best local business newspaper in the country?

Sign-up for our FREE Daily eNews update to get the latest Orange County news delivered right to your inbox!


Featured Articles


Related Articles