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Thursday, Dec 7, 2023

Aspen Medical CEO: New Body Braces are ‘Game Changers’

After Jim Cloar underwent a rotator cuff shoulder surgery earlier this year, he tested a product his company, Aspen Medical Products LLC, was considering introducing.

The test involved attaching therapy pads from Nice Recovery Systems to Aspen Medical’s flagship Vista Cervical Collar and its Horizon 637, to allow a patient to receive cold therapy without ice in an all-in-one device.

The system provided cold water for 20-minute periods during the night, said Cloar, who noted that as typical in such surgeries, he had to sleep in a chair rather than a bed for several nights after the surgery.

“I was the test guinea pig,” Cloar recalled. “I went to sleep, and it kept me chilled all night long. I’m one of their biggest supporters because it’s so easy to use.

“It’s really a great thing. I’m a zealot for their product.”

It’s been about three years since Cloar joined Irvine-based Aspen Medical, which ranks No. 22 on the Business Journal’s annual list of medical device makers (see list, page 22).

The company is known for spine braces, which are used in about 70% of all trauma centers in the U.S. Aspen Medical says its products offer a high level of motion restriction for patients in need of short-term treatment from severe injuries or are recovering from surgery.

“We know spine. We know our spine customers.”

Wonderful Culture

Aspen Medical was formed in 2000 when International Healthcare Devices, maker of the Aspen Cervical Collar, and its contract manufacturer, Fiji Enterprises, were combined.

Founder Dan Williamson has a long track record in medical devices, including braces, having worked at companies like California Medical Products and American Hospital Supply Corp., which subsequently merged with Baxter International.

Williamson in 2019 sold a majority stake to the Cortec Group, a private equity firm based in New York. Cortec invests in companies with $40 million to $300 million in revenue and $7 million to $35 million in EBITDA, according to its website.

“Dan built a wonderful culture here that’s focused on doing the right thing for the patient and the employee,” Cloar said.

Cloar joined Aspen Medical in 2020 from German-based medical device maker Zimmer Biomet, where he was president of its spinal unit, which generated nearly $750 million in annual sales in 2019.

“What I was brought in was for commercial scaling,” he said. “The company is doing extremely well, both on the top and bottom lines.”

The company, which has about 460 employees worldwide, is generating close to $150 million annually, he said.

It recently renewed its lease for five years and has renovated the building’s interior.

Rich Pipeline

The company says it has “a rich pipeline of new products coming, some of which will be game changers for the orthopedic and spine markets.” Cloar said his experience has taught him that it usually takes about 18 to 24 months to develop a product and get it to market.

“We’ve got so much coming out in the next three years,” Cloar said.

This quarter, the company is introducing the VRTX System, a bracing system from the neck to the waist.

The VRTX System is “a seamless system approach” that can be shaped to the patients’ need.

“It will be the first such system in the world like this,” Cloar said.

Currently, patients who need a full body brace face a choice of a full body shell— which “every single patient hates”—or a “hodge podge” of different devices that don’t work well together, Cloar said.

“A lot of times these braces aren’t worn because they aren’t comfortable, they don’t fit or they don’t deliver value,” Cloar said.

The company is also in the acquisition mode, currently studying three to five potential acquisitions that have products that can alleviate pain.

Before Cloar arrived in 2020, Aspen Medical acquired United Kingdom-based Promedics Orthopaedic Ltd., a manufacturer of ankle, knee and wrist bracing products, among others, that sells to that country’s National Institute for Health.

It’s announced partnerships with companies like ComforTrac, a maker of home traction devices to alleviate neck pain, and Stimwave Technologies, a developer of the Freedom Spinal Cord Stimulator (SCS) System. In March, Aspen Medical announced a partnership with Nice Recovery Systems.

A new federal government program to reduce opioid use through non-medication methods may help drive sales.

“What we’re trying to do is not only to bring great bracing products to market, but also deliver products th­at not only hold you in place, give you stability, but will also be the delivery vehicle for pain management other than pharmaceuticals,” Cloar said.

“It’s all about managing pain and doing more with the braces to deliver therapies.”

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