HistoSonics Aims To Move Forward After Raising $8.5M, Naming New CEO

Changes are afoot at HistoSonics, the University of Michigan medical device spinout based in Ann Arbor, MI.

The company has a new CEO, as well as a new focus on the treatment of solid-tumor cancers. Last month, HistoSonics also closed on a $8.2 million Series B round led by Wisconsin’s Venture Investors, with contributions from North Carolina’s Hatteras Venture Partners, Boston’s Fletcher Spaght Ventures, Cleveland’s Early Stage Partners, and four Michigan-based organizations: TGap Ventures, Grand Angels, U-M’s Wolverine Venture Fund, and MINTS (Michigan Investment in New Technology Startups) program.

When HistoSonics launched in2010, it was developing technology to treat enlarged prostates with a noninvasive, ultrasonic image-guided system. Chris Gibbons, co-founder and chief operating officer, says the company is now applying its patented Robotically Assisted Sonic Therapy (RAST) technology to treat liver cancer patients.

HistoSonics’s Series B funding will pay for a 10-patient study in Spain that will seek to confirm the efficacy of its RAST system. Gibbons says she expects the study will take place later this year. “We wanted to do an early study with an investigator we know well in Barcelona,” she says.

The company is going after liver cancer in part because of a high unmet need, Gibbons says. According to a report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, liver cancer is considered the second-deadliest cancer. Moreover, it’s not particularly responsive to chemotherapy, and less than 25 percent of patients are candidates for surgery, Gibbons says. According to the American Cancer Society, liver cancer has only a 17 percent survival rate after five years.

Gibbons says HistoSonics’s therapy holds promise because it’s noninvasive, doesn’t require needles or incisions, and is precise. The hope is that RAST offers a safer, more economical tumor treatment with less pain and a shorter recovery time.

“Our technology has the ability to uniquely address a major unmet need,” she says.

New CEO Mike Blue joins HistoSonics from Madison, WI-based NeuWave Medical, a company that produced microwave technology to shrink soft-tissue lesions. NeuWave was acquired by Ethicon, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, last year. Before that, Blue worked as vice president of sales for Covidien’s interventional lung solutions division, and was a regional business manager for Boston Scientific. (Before Blue was hired, Gibbons had served as HistoSonics’s interim CEO.)

Gibbons says she expects her company to make another significant staff announcement soon. The 13-person company also has additional investments pending, which will likely close “in the next few months,” she adds.

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