San Diego has a long tradition of being a nerve center for
medical device innovation, and some of the more promising new
devices and diagnostic tools on the market or nearing
commercialization could be front and center this week in La
We are pretty excited about the lineup, said Joe Panetta,
president and chief executive officer of Biocom, a trade
association for the regions life sciences industry, which is
sponsoring the Med Device and Diagnostics Expo.
The event is a showcase for some of the newest and most
innovative devices from local companies, says Panetta, adding that
there will be about 15 exhibitors at the Nov. 18 event.
Its a pretty popular networking event, he added, as members and
nonmembers show up to get a gander at some innovative technologies.
We also have investors here, he said, referring to an underlying
goal of many exhibitors looking for funding.
Theres much more investment activity in the (med devices) space
over therapeutics because the time to market is much shorter, said
Investors sinking money in significant new drug development
efforts are looking at a time frame of 12 to 15 years and billions
of dollars from discovery to sales, says Panetta.
Most devices can get to market at a tenth of that cost, which
means a little more of a return on the investment in a more
predictable time frame, he said.
Driving the Local Economy
Panetta says the companies products at the expo, which usually
attracts several hundred participants, are addressing diverse
diseases and medical problems. They also represent a significant
and increasingly important economic force in the region.
Volcano Corp., a Carmel Valley-based business that specializes
in making catheters and other devices for working in veins, is the
most well-known local company at the expo, according to Panetta.
Volcano, which has about 1,200 employees, on Nov. 3 reported
revenues of nearly $213 million for the first nine months of the
year, a 36 percent increase from the same period a year ago.
Panetta says the expo which is free to the public is different
from another Biocom event called DeviceFest. That full-day
conference explores the implications of such forces as health care
reform and its impact on the medical device industry. Others have
addressed the roles of telehealth, reimbursement, regulatory
agencies, intellectual property and financing strategies.
While his business isnt one of the 550 companies that are Biocom
members, Ed Arkans, founder and president of ACI Medical Inc., says
hes looking forward to exhibiting his companys latest devices:
products that are focused on the peripheral disease market. In
1988, the company began design of a noninvasive diagnostic device
for chronic venous disease. It was used on the Mir Space Station
and iterations are being developed for other international space
Its all about increasing blood flow to the legs and feet, Arkans
said about the product line. One product applies a unique form of
pneumatic compression to increase arterial blood flow to legs with
The San Marcos manufacturer has 30 employees and targets
niche-market customers at hospitals and clinics.
Another company exhibiting at the event is La Jolla-based
CorTechs Labs Inc. CorTechs mission is to create advanced brain
image analysis that would help physicians diagnose and treat
serious neurological disorders, such as Alzheimers disease, more
effectively, says Kora Marinkovic, the companys director of
marketing and sales.
Its premier product is called NeuroQuant, which is the first
software cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on the
market that provides information on brain structures, returning
results in minutes. Several pharmaceutical companies have also
recognized the value of NeuroQuant, and the software is being used
in several clinical trials, says Marinkovic.
But the Biocom event isnt the first venue to feature the
product. A couple of years ago, NeuroQuant was named among the top
three new products at the worlds largest medical imaging show
sponsored by the Radiological Society of North America.
The company, which has about a dozen employees, has benefited
from National Institutes for Health grants totaling $7 million to
fund the development of NeuroQuant. But more money will be needed
to help the company, incorporated in 2001, to grow its market.
Greater visibility in the area (San Diego) will be helpful in
advancing this technology, said Marinkovic.
Other San Diego area companies scheduled to exhibit are Cytori
Therapeutics Inc., Epinex Diagnostics Inc., Naviscan Pet Systems
Inc. and RF Surgical Systems Inc.
One of these companies just might be in the running for an award
The evening will conclude with a panel of venture capitalists
and industry experts selecting companies for technical excellence
and medical significance, says Panetta.
And for the first time, the fifth annual event will include a
contract alley, he added. This will feature local firms that
provide design and contract manufacturing services for device and
This will be a great opportunity for businesses to preview what
services are available and meet those individuals who could be an
integral part of bringing a product to market, said Panetta.