Strokes are a leading cause of disability and the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. Of the nearly 800,000 people who suffer from a stroke in the U.S. each year, 87% are ischemic strokes, in which blood flow to the brain is blocked, according to the CDC. If not treated quickly or effectively to restore circulation, brain ischemia victims can suffer from irreversible brain damage.
Enter Xtract Medical, the newest startup in Fogarty Innovation’s Company Accelerator Program (CAP), which is aiming to find a better treatment to avert this tragic result. CAP is a program that supports early-stage companies in developing a comprehensive, cross-functional approach to address their desired opportunity by “starting with the end in mind.” The six-month program is designed to help companies clearly focus on their opportunity and identify barriers to success.
Saving lives and brain function with a better solution
The highly capable team includes Xtract Medical co-founder and CEO Mike Schaller, who has an extensive background in medical device engineering development and has worked with a variety of companies, including Transcend Medical, which was acquired by Alcon; and Innovative Drive, a company that offers design solutions for a broad range of medical device businesses. His co-founders are Jorge Gamba, MD, a neuroradiogist, and Eric Sauvageau, MD, a neurosurgeon.
From the beginning, the team was focused on working in the stroke thrombectomy space as Jorge and Eric saw a big opportunity for improvement in this field. “While more solutions have become available in the past years, they aren’t quite where they should be, and we think patients deserve better,” Mike said.
Mike helped Jorge and Eric brainstorm ideas for solving the problem by addressing the two greatest needs they identified: improving the ability to remove the clot on the first try, known as the “first pass” in thrombectomy; and subsequently preventing the clot from breaking up as it’s being removed.
“These have been our guiding stars as we work on the technology,” Mike said, explaining that Xtract Medical is a very clinical need-driven company, with founders who have a deep well of firsthand experience and knowledge of available treatments, surgeons’ workflows and challenges they may face.
In the past, physicians treated stroke with medication, primarily through tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), a drug designed to potentially stop a stroke by dissolving the blood clot and restoring blood flow to the brain. Within the last five to 10 years, treatment has shifted to a procedure that removes the clot with a stent retriever. Backed by large clinical studies, this has shown significant improvement as the best treatment for large vessel occlusions. Yet, the problems Xtract Medical identified remain. “We’re at a tipping point where things are improving, but still needing to be better, and we hope to be the catalyst to get there,” said Mike.
The team is currently working on a device that is simple to use and meets physicians’ needs to improve outcomes. The company has already received a grant from the state of Colorado and is targeting additional ones.
Joining Fogarty Innovation was an easy decision for Xtract Medical, which regards the organization as a world-class accelerator. “The leadership is some of the best in the industry and extremely knowledgeable about medical device development. What’s especially appealing is their wide-ranging experience in unique aspects of the industry, which means their proficiencies cover the full gamut of product development, including regulatory issues, fundraising, technical challenges, usability and so much more,” said Mike, adding that his team is looking forward to this mentorship and in-depth expertise to take the company to the next level.
“Medical devices are a complex space, and the Fogarty mentors brings such a wealth of experience from all of those different vantage points that it’s going to be really helpful for us as a very early-stage company striving to ensure we’re on the right track for success.”