Monday, September 24, 2007

IntraOp Medical: Your mystery medical (device) company....

[Click on Post Title for Link to External Article]

I dug this out of SJ Mercury News, who seem to have dug it out of SEC Filings. IntraOp is right down the road in Sunnyvale. I have really not heard of them before!

That said, they don't seem to be all that secretive. Mayo Clinic has discussed them, and so have a few others. The company seems to have been around since 1993. They also seem to have recently sold equipment to the Netherlands and China. And the story seems to be a classic take on the "entrepreneur's" struggle.

So what has been going on? First off, an IORT system is not a medical device in the colloquial sense of the word. It is medical capital equipment. Plus, given a spate of these systems , looks like IntraOp is suffering just about what every start up in the capital equipment industry is suffering from...stiff competition from the very market it serves.

Intra Operative RT never really took off, and it will continue to suffer due to competition from External Beam RT systems, PET, and the several variations of IGRT, IMRT and so on produced by companies like Nucleotron, Varian, etc. Plus there is the CyberKnife that Accuray makes. Throw Brachytherapy in the midst and ....

Plus, it makes one wonder, how far will $5mn take a company in this market? They will have to fight it out with several radiation therapy strategies, find acceptable study results, physicist buy-in and so on before they can really break in.

The physicist angle here is important... Medical Physicists like the elegance of planning, not all of them like to hang around in the OR while radiation and/or surgery is in progress. This is a problem even for established Brachytherapy systems.

So what is the angle IntraOp is playing here? True, it is great to see a management team that is totally sold on the concept to the extent that they even made huge loans to the organization. But how long will they hold out? Or will they emerge as one more unexpected Silicon Valley darling from the left field?

Too many questions that only time can answer...just remember, CyberKnife itself is quite the success story (this could become another blog post, and some day it will..)

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