San Antonio MedTech Startup’s “Clamp” Aims to Stop Bleeding Faster

For Dennis Filips, entrepreneurial inspiration came from the grim battlefields of Serbia, the Golan Heights, and Afghanistan.

A trauma surgeon with the Canadian Forces until 2008, Filips experienced firsthand the difficulty in stemming blood loss of injured soldiers as he attempted to stabilize them for hospital care.

Those insights led him and his co-founder Ian Atkinson to found iTraumaCare back home in Edmonton, Canada. The startup developed the iTClamp, a device that seals the edges of a closed wound to create a temporary pressurized pool of blood, which then forms a stable clot that stems off further blood loss until the wound can be surgically repaired.

“The device grabs onto the ends of the wound, pulls the edges of the wounds into the device,” Filips says. “There’s a pressure bar system so when you squeeze it together, like a Ziploc bag, it closes, giving a seal.”

iTraumaCare says its device can stop severe bleeding, which, if unstopped, can kill injured patients within seconds.

The FDA approved the device in May for use on arms and legs, the armpit, and the groin area. In October, the agency OK’d its use to temporarily control severe bleeding of the scalp. “Scalp lacerations are especially difficult to control,” says Phil Faris, the company’s chairman of the board. “The vessels don’t retract and self-seal as quickly. They bleed into the hair and a lot of blood is lost before the wound is discovered.”

Faris says that the iTClamp mimics what skilled trauma surgeons can do with suturing techniques. A frontline soldier or paramedic could use the device to quickly simulate the effects of suturing without needing the specialized knowledge surgeons possess, he adds.

Current bleeding-control products are usually gauzes soaked with hemostatic agents to expedite the clotting process in simple cuts. But those gauzes are ineffective with more severe bleeding, says Faris.

iTraumaCare began selling the device in Europe after receiving approval in March. The iTClamp, which is manufactured in a medtech production facility in the Dominican Republic that is used by other companies such as Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ), sells for $79 in North America and 85 euros in Europe.

Faris says iTraumaCare, which has its US headquarters in San Antonio, is close to completing its Series B round of $8.5 million, with San Antonio-based Targeted Technologies acting as lead investor. It closed its Series A round of $3.7 million a year ago with private investors and small institutions. He estimates that the company will need to raise another $2 million to $4 million.

The company is targeting potential customers in both civilian and military medical institutions in the United States and abroad. So far, it has sold devices to the City of Memphis’ fire department, which oversees its ambulance service, Memphis’ medical flight service, and Hermann Memorial Hospital in Houston, which runs one of the busiest trauma centers in the world. “Suturing as a skill is restricted to doctors, and it takes them several minutes,” Filips says. “We knew our device had to be simple to use.”

As they bootstrapped the company, he and Atkinson spent a couple of years trying to design the device, working with a local sheet metal shop to come up with the original prototype and finishing it off with the help of University of Alberta consultants. “It took about 30 different prototypes to perfect it,” he says.

For his part, Faris learned about iTraumaCare through a chance meeting at an entrepreneur bootcamp where he was a panelist two years ago. Faris had been CEO of Vidacare, a San Antonio medtech device company that manufactures a driver-and-needle system to access spaces inside bones for diagnostic and therapeutic treatments in vascular and emergency medicine, as well as in cancer treatment. (Last month, Teleflex (NYSE: TFX) bought Vidacare for $262.5 million.)

“The markets that their innovation targeted are the same ones that we had approached with Vidacare and we had built a successful organization and company,” Faris says. “We talked for a year and they had made progress, had a prototype, and we struck up a formal relationship at that point.”

The men decided that the South Texas town would be the ideal location for its U.S. headquarters. Home to the U.S. Army’s Fort Sam Houston, as well as the U.S. Air Force’s Lackland and Randolph bases, San Antonio has a critical mass of trauma expertise. The University of Texas at San Antonio Health Science Center’s medical school is also located there.

iTraumaCare’s ties to San Antonio’s medical community grew closer this month when Catherine Burzik, the former CEO of Kinetic Concepts, a local medtech company specializing in wound care and regenerative medicine, joined its board. (KCI was taken private in 2011 by Apax Partners for $6.3 billion.)

Filips remains based in Edmonton, though, in reality, he seems to live on airplanes. In the next week, he will travel to Europe, Saudi Arabia, and the East Coast, marketing the iTClamp. Still, he hopes to get to the point where he can be in Texas once a month.

“There is so much trauma expertise there,” Filips says. “That was critical.”

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