No more pain in vain

Vascular Technologies' electronic IV aid locates hard-to-find veins.

Almost everyone who has ever been hospitalized has enjoyed the dubious pleasure of the insertion of an intravenous infusion. Quite a few readers have undoubtedly encountered a nurse who missed the vein, and repeatedly jabbed their arm again and again until finding the right place.

These unpleasant occurrences are especially true for patients with hard-to-find veins that are difficult to identify at first glance. This group includes persons with low blood pressure, or viscous blood that flows slowly, those suffering from dehydration, and children. For these patients, it can take up to four seconds between the the time a needle is inserted into the vein, and until the nurse see blood flowing into the flashback chamber of the IV catheter (the plastic device that is inserted into the vein during transfusion, known professionally as a venflon). However, even patients with healthy veins can take up to a full second from the moment the needle is inserted into a vein until the blood flow emerges.

The problem facing nurses at hospitals in twofold. They must locate a vein, and know how to insert the needle without perforating the distal wall.

This is precisely the problem that Vascular Technologies Ltd. seeks to solve. Founded in 1996 by CEO Eli Matalon, Vascular Technologies has developed an electronic device that attaches to the rear end of a catheter, and beeps the moment the needle enters the vein. Vascular Technologies has raised $2.5 million to date from investment institutions, including Melnik Venture Partners (MVP) and investment bank Solid Capital Markets, as well as the Office of the Chief Scientist and the YEDA Research and Development of the Weizmann Institute of Science, and private investors.

Matalon, a former IDF medic, conceived the idea after realizing how difficult it was to insert a catheter into the vein of a battlefield casualty. Development of the product began in 1998, with the help of a team of eight engineers. Since then, Vascular Technologies has obtained US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. Matalon says research conducted by his company at the Schneider Children's Medical Center, headed by Dr. Yaakov Katz, found that success rate for inserting a needle and catheter into children rose from 70% to 91%. Among patients with hard-to-find veins, the success rate rose from 26% to 90%.

The device, called Vein Entry Indicator Device (VEID), comprises a pressure sensor, signal processing unit, battery and miniature loudspeaker. It operates by sensing the change in pressure when the needle penetrates a vein. One tenth of a second later, the VEID beeps, completing the procedure. The VEID currently costs $120 per unit, and can be reused about 2,000 times. The cost of a VEID-catheter adaptor is an extra $0.20.

Vascular Technologies has also developed a special catheter that includes a VEID, thereby eliminating the cost of the adaptor. Because of these costs, Vascular Technologies' target market is patients with hard-to-find veins.

When Vascular Technologies completed development of the VEID and obtained the necessary approvals, it turned to production, but encountered two major problems. The VEID was basically a device that improved users' performance, thereby reducing the income of catheter vendors through which Vascular Technologies sought to market its product. Responses from potential partners for marketing the VEID were positive, but they preferred that Vascular Technologies supply a one-time product, rather than the reusable that it had developed.

At the recommendation of Dr. Shimon Eckhouse, chairman of Syneron Medical Ltd. (Nasdaq: ELOS), who serves as an external advisor for Vascular Technologies, the company decided on an old-new direction: development of an identical mechanism that will operate on a one-time platform, and costing no more than $6. To develop the new product, Vascular Technologies contacted a strategic partner, which took development of the one-time device under its wing. Vascular Technologies fired the development personnel who worked at the Kiryat Weizmann Science Park in Rehovot, while keeping only its administrative staff.

Within six months, Vascular Technologies plans to launch a one-time product. In addition to a beep when the needle penetrates a vein, the device will include a red light that will flash at the moment of penetration. The device is mainly intended for use in the field, especially for the military. To finance the clinical trials the product will have to undergo, production and to develop new applications, Vascular Technologies plans to raise an additional $3 million at various points over the coming years.

"Globes": What is the size of the IV market?

Matalon: "700-800 million IV procedures are currently conducted a year of which 200 million are in our target market of procedures for difficult veins. We have to sell five million one-time devices to make a profit."

Who are your direct competitors?

"There are companies that have developed ultrasound-based devices that help locate veins, but no company has developed a device for identifying the vein itself."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes.co.il - on May 10, 2005

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