(Updated May 31, 2012)
Perfuzia Medical Inc. CEO Sagi Brink-Danan was looking for the kind of idea you could build a company around and fellow Israeli ex-pat Shai Schubert had a big one: technology that could potentially ease the suffering of thousands of people with chronic tissue wounds such as burns and bedsores.
Schubert, a Harvard-trained vascularbiologist, realized that the existing treatment for chronic tissue wounds in many cases did little for patients. The reason the wounds become chronic in the first place is oxygen deprivation, Brink-Danan said, and treatments that deal with the surface of the skin don’t solve the problem.
“He realized that cell therapies were 20 years away from the clinic and there must be something we can do to help these patients,” Brink-Danan said. “We looked into other options and asked why these wounds don’t heal. The answer was: they don’t get enough blood.”
The solution Brink-Danan and Schubert came up with, and founded Perfuzia Medical to develop, was a device to stimulate blood flow to wounded tissue through mechanical vibrations.
After initial tests of the treatment were encouraging, Perfuzia, Brown University and Rhode Island Hospital were recently awarded $200,000 from the state of Rhode Island to take the device into full-scale clinical testing.
“That is a tremendous step for us that will allow us to do a very well-designed, top-level study,” Brink-Danan said.
While looking into the cause of the problem, Brink-Danan, who came to the United States 10 years ago and got an MBA from Babson College, also realized the scale of the issue and, as a result, the potential market of a product that could address it.
Although a low-profile problem compared with many health conditions, chronic wounds affect between 7-8 million people in the Unites States each year with a cost of about $20 billion.
As Brink-Danan pointed out, it was complications from a pressure-ulcer infection that caused the death of actor Christopher Reeve, who was well-known in Israel for his work there on stem-cell research.
The first prototype that Perfuzia developed for healing wounds was about the size of a shoebox and, while it showed promise, was awkward, heavy and difficult to use on a large scale.