Whether they’re on a busted lip or helping close wounds after surgery, stitches and other sutures are a familiar presence in the medical world.
They’ve long been the best standard of care for closing wounds, but one Seattle-based startup is hoping to find success with a high-tech alternative to the old-fashioned needle-and-thread approach.
The startup is KitoTech Medical, which was spun out of the University of Washington by biotech entrepreneur Ronald Berenson in 2013. The company just finished raising $525,000 to fund the launch of microMend, a wound-closing device that it says works better than traditional sutures.
That brings the startup’s total funding to date to $3.25 million, with plans to raise more as it approaches a commercial launch.
MicroMend looks like a band-aid, but instead of being made of sticky plastic, it uses tiny microstaples developed at the UW to hold the edges of a wound together.
Berenson told GeekWire that the company has finished developing microMend, registered it with the FDA, and is planning a commercial launch this summer.
“In parallel with this work, we’ve done a clinical study at Virginia Mason Hospital in patients who are undergoing laparoscopic or robotic surgeries,” which leave small incisions in a patient’s skin, Berenson said.
The study involved 18 patients, each of whom had some wounds treated with traditional sutures and some treated with microMend. Berenson said the doctors and patients involved largely preferred microMend to sutures.
“The doctors felt it was easier to use and liked it better, but importantly so did the patients because the results were much better, it was less painful, and all those good things,” Berenson said.
He also said the device is currently being examined in a second study in dermatology patients, which will be the startup’s initial focus market.
Despite the impending launch, Berenson said KitoTech is a one-man show with few operations.
“It’s basically a virtual company. We have no employees and our internal operations cost less than $10,000 a month. The only other major expense is manufacturing the product,” Berenson said.
KitoTech was founded by Berenson and former UW professor Marco Rolandi, who is now an associate professor at the University of California Santa Cruz.
Berenson is a long-time Seattle area entrepreneur, previously helping to build biotech companies such as CellPro and Xcyte Therapies. He began his career in Seattle at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in the 80’s, after earning degrees at Yale and Stanford, among others.
More recently, Berenson has served as an entrepreneur-in-residence at the University of Washington, mining the university’s research programs for good business ides. In fact, he’s also involved in a new UW biotech spinout called DMD Therapeutics, which is working on a possible treatment for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), a rare and severe form of muscular dystrophy.