Intersect ENT Grabs $30M for Drug/Device Combo for the Sinuses

Xconomy San Francisco — 

If you utter the phrase “drug/device combo” inside the life sciences industry, most people will think you’re talking about products for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or maybe neurological disorders like Parkinson’s. Intersect ENT is hoping to find a niche of its own with combo products for the sinuses.

The Menlo Park, CA-based company is announcing today it has pulled in a $30 million venture financing to help it commercialize a couple existing products and further develop new ones for ear/nose/throat disorders—hence the ENT part of its name. The company, formerly known as Sinexus, has now pulled in four rounds of venture capital since 2006, totaling $90 million. Norwest Venture Partners led the round as a new investor, and all of Intersect ENT’s existing investors joined in, including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, U.S. Venture Partners, PTV Sciences, and medical device giant Medtronic (NYSE: MDT).

Intersect ENT won FDA clearance in August 2011 for its first product, which it calls Propel. This widget is a dissolvable polymer scaffold that’s designed to prop open clogged sinus passages after surgery, while slowly releasing a steroid drug called mometasone furoate that’s supposed to tamp down inflammation and help open the airways during recovery time after surgery. The product, along with a follow-on FDA-approved version for people with smaller airways called Propel Mini, is cleared for use in the roughly 500,000 patients who undergo nasal surgery each year.

Although only a small band of 200 or so early-adopting physicians regularly use it, and payers haven’t broadly embraced the $1,400 drug/device combo, Intersect ENT is mounting a marketing campaign based on clinical trials that say it can reduce the number of repeat surgeries, and the chronic usage of oral corticosteroid medications that cause long-term side effects. Armed with the extra cash, which CEO Lisa Earnhardtsays should be the company’s last venture financing, Intersect intends to develop an implantable drug/device that could eventually be used before surgery, which could appeal to a much greater segment of the roughly 30 million people in the U.S. who complain of chronic stuffy nose. Over time, it hopes to branch into other ear/nose/throat disorders like middle ear infections, sleep apnea, and hearing loss.

Lisa Earnhardt, CEO of Intersect ENT

“One of the reasons we’re so excited is that this area is so ripe for disruption,” Earnhardt says. “There are big unmet needs in sleep apnea, sinusitis, and hearing loss. We’ve seen an uptick in venture investing and strategic corporate interest lately.”

Casper de Clercq, a partner at Norwest Venture Partners, said in a statement that his firm joined the Intersect ENT syndicate because, “we are impressed with Intersect ENT’s rapid pace of innovation and commercialization. The company has garnered an impressive body of clinical data as well as two FDA approvals in just over one year, and its latest product is already in clinical trials. We look forward to having a seat at the table during this exciting next stage of growth for the company.”

Many ear/nose/throat disorders are seen as nuisances to patients, rather than life-threatening situations, so Intersect ENT will have its work cut out getting people to pay a premium price. About 6,000 patients have been treated with the company’s Propel products—one for people with larger sinus cavities and another for smaller folks. That hasn’t generated a lot of revenue to the company just yet, but it has yielded some market insights that encourage the company to keep forging ahead with an expansion plan.

“What’s been most important isn’t the revenue but the reorders, and customer retention we’ve seen,” Earnhardt says. “So far the rates have been very high.”

The company has been growing fast to try to capture the opportunity it sees. Intersect ENT had about 30 employees before its FDA approval, and now has … Next Page »

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2 responses to “Intersect ENT Grabs $30M for Drug/Device Combo for the Sinuses”

  1. Jake Harrison says:

    Luke, which disorders lead to the surgeries that this device treats? Is it regular old adenoids-blocking-the-eustachian-tubes that so many kids have, or is it something else? I would think a safe and reliable alternative to adenoid surgery for kids would be a big opportunity because so many parents would like to avoid surgery for their children.

    • Nicole Osmer says:

      Hi Jake, currently Intersect ENT is focused on improving quality of life for patients suffering from chronic sinusitis caused by a variety of factors leading to inflammation in the sinuses. However, the company’s intent is to apply bioabsorbable local drug delivery technology to the range of conditions that ENT specialists manage such as those affecting the ears, tonsils and adenoids.