ImThera Medical Generating Buzz Over Neurostimulation for Sleep Apnea

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such devices represent a $4 billion market that is dominated by major companies like Boston Scientific and Medtronic, and which has been growing at 18 percent annually.

Lima, who began working on ImThera full-time just last year, says the six-year-old company currently has just five full-time and six part-time employees. He recruited UCSD’s Davidson to serve as ImThera’s chief medical officer, and says he is raising an additional $3.5 million from individual investors in a secondary round that is expected to close this month.

Meanwhile, CPAP devices are still considered the established therapy for patients with obstructive sleep apnea. Companies that manufacture CPAP machines include Philips Respironics, Covidien, and ResMed.

Since it was founded 11 years ago, Poway, CA-based ResMed has grown to be a major medical device company—with more than 2,000 employees and sales last year of nearly $921 million. That accounts for almost a third of the estimated $3 billion market for CPAP devices in the U.S., a market that is growing by an estimated 20 percent a year. Such growth helps to explain Lima’s optimism for ImThera, which plans to complete mid-stage clinical trials in Europe this year and begin clinical trials in the U.S. by the end of 2010. It also helps to explain why two rival startups, Apnex Medical and Inspire Medical Systems, were founded near Minneapolis to develop similar technology.

So, as an early stage medical device startup, ImThera faces many challenges in establishing its technology. Still, as Davidson puts it, “If we can pull this off, it will be as sensational as spinal neurostimulation and pacemakers. It’s really sensational.”

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