The Houston Chronicle
January 20, 2010
At first glance, the three-story building that houses IDev Technologies seems to have more space than the company can use, with some empty offices and bare walls.
In fact, grass is growing on the roof. That's by design, though: It's called a green roof, covered with soil and planted with a living carpet as an environmentally friendly way to absorb heat and rainwater.
As the flora thrives, the medical device company is confident it too will grow into the new 48,000-square-foot facility in Webster as it ramps up production of medical stents it sells in Europe and the U.S.
“We're at an exciting stage in our company,” CEO Chris Owens said. “And we need this space to sustain our growth.”
He declined to disclose revenue but said the company has grown from five employees to 100 since 2005 and plans to double that over the next two years. IDev has raised about $50 million in venture capital since 2004.
Though it's not profitable yet, the company sees a growing market for its stents, small mesh tubes used to treat blocked blood vessels outside the heart, a form of peripheral vascular disease.
The $780 million U.S. market for such stents will grow to $1.2 billion by 2014, according to Millennium Research Group.
The market has drawn attention from device manufacturers as doctors look for ways to treat blocked vessels, especially in legs, without amputating limbs or performing bypass surgery.
“There's a huge underserved population that seems to present a growth opportunity for companies,” said Venkat Rajan, an analyst with the research firm Frost & Sullivan.
Doctors in recent years have treated blocked blood vessels in legs with stents that federal regulators had approved for treating diseased bile ducts. The U.S. Department of Justice, however, has questioned whether stent manufacturers can market stents for such “off-label” purposes. As a result, companies are asking the Food and Drug Administration to approve their stents for other parts of the body.
Companies including medical giants Cordis and C.R. Bard also have devices on the market.
But Owens says IDev's stent is more flexible and durable because it's made by braiding strands of nitinol, a flexible nickel-titanium alloy that can to return to a predetermined shape. Other companies etch patterns into tubes of the metal with lasers, he said.
The FDA approved IDev's stent for use on bile ducts but is still overseeing a clinical trial for use in arteries in the legs. It's been approved for both uses in Europe.
The stent's flexibility makes it ideal for placement in the artery behind the knee, where it would be subject to bends and pressure, said Gino Sedillo, a cardiologist in Bradenton, Fla.
“Every time you squat down, you bend that knee to the point where it could cause a stent to kink, or after a while they close down. IDev's stent really adapts and bends right along with it so it's less likely to kink,” said Sedillo, who is enrolling some of his patients for the FDA study.
Pricing is the issue
How fast stent companies can increase sales will depend on competition and growing awareness of the products, said Stephanie LaBelle, senior analyst with Millennium Research Group.
“Pricing is always an issue with more competitors entering the market,” she said. “And there are some physicians that will continue to use surgical methods.”
She said stents range in price from $1,000 to $2,500 in the U.S., depending on the type, averaging about $1,500.
IDev's stent, which sells for about $1,500, is the first medical device the company has launched.
Founded in 1999, IDev has a patent portfolio of more than 30 technologies licensed from the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.
The company was founded by Jeff Sheldon, who now heads another medical device company, Houston Medical Robotics.
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