Medical device entrepreneur Dan Kasprzyk has brought another start-up bio-tech company to Flagstaff. In 2000, he created and built the start-up concept for Machine Solutions, Inc. from idea to $16.3 million in annual revenue in less than eight years. “A lot was good planning, but a lot was good ol’ fashioned luck,” said the former president and CEO of Machine Solutions. “It was my first start-up, we produced number-setting records and investors were knocking on the door.” Kasprzyk guided the sale of the business to a private equity group, Forsyth Capital Investors of St. Louis, Missouri, in 2011 and stayed on as a board member.
Today, Kasprzyk leads Symple Surgical Inc., another start-up bio-tech company, from his office in Flagstaff. But that was not always the case. Kasprzyk and co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Randy Preston originally established Symple Surgical in Menlo Park, California in 2012. “We were taking advantage of the software and medical engineering workforce in the Bay Area,” explained Kasprzyk, who commuted from Flagstaff to Menlo Park every Monday. “There is a skill set and talent pool in Menlo Park.” But at the end of 2015, the company’s lease had expired, Facebook had purchased the building tripling the rent, and it was time to move. One of Symple Surgical’s investors suggested that the business relocate to NACET – Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology.
“I approached Annette [Zinky, President & CEO at Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology] and we quickly moved to Flagstaff,” said the entrepreneur, who is now focused on developing innovative microwave device therapies. The start-up keeps a lean profile with three associates in Flagstaff and one at a Sacramento location.
“It’s not hard to function remotely,” Kasprzyk said about the California satellite office. “The engineers now bike to work. It was a stroke of luck to find NACET as Facebook was raising the rent in Menlo Park.” The two Flagstaff associates, a mechanical engineer and an electronics engineer, both have biomedical backgrounds. The electronics engineer located in Sacramento has a background in microwave technologies.
“We have a great lab and office space; everything is here. We don’t have access to a catheter supplier or machining technology, so we are leaning on the Bay Area. We can lean on them from here,” said the Symple Surgical President and CEO with a smile.
The team at Symple Surgical is developing device-based therapies that deliver microwave energy. The unique technology will be used in treatment for hypertension, Barrett’s Esophagus, Esophageal Cancer and Metastatic Tumor Ablation once approved. Microwave ablation is a relatively new therapy used primarily in the field of oncology for tumor and soft-tissue removal.
“We’ve got a device for treating Barrett’s Esophagus and another device for treating hypertension. Both are enormous markets and we’re aggressively pushing both forward,” Kasprzyk revealed. Testing and trials required by the FDA makes for a lengthy timeframe for product release. The company anticipates revenue for the device to treat Barrett’s Esophagus in 2019.
“There are six trials for device-based therapies for treating hypertension going on now in the U.S. and Europe. There is an interest,” he explained. Symple Surgical’s device is unique in that it uses microwave rather than radiofrequency ablation. The outpatient device therapy uses a one-time-use catheter to the right and left arteries that feed the kidneys. The catheter that delivers the antenna to the arteries connects to a generator. Microwaves are then transmitted via insulated coaxial cable and delivered through the antenna, which emits the energy. The polarizing microwave energy causes molecules to rotate rapidly. As the rotating molecules collide with neighboring molecules, frictional heat is produced. The heat zone can be controlled by several factors including power, frequency of the microwave, antenna design and the material properties in the near-field of the antenna.
According to recent studies, the benefits of microwave ablation include faster heating, a larger heating zone and a more uniform heating zone than radiofrequency ablation.
“We have all the tools,” said Kasprzyk. “We’ve raised $3 million locally. Our next step is to get this to human testing. If we are successful at what we do – and we will be – it will give more opportunity for other medical device entrepreneurs to create start-ups here in Flagstaff. Thousands of associates work in the medical device industry in Flagstaff. I think we have more biotech employees per capita here than in the Bay Area.”
Kasprzyk added, “We’ve come full circle. The idea for Symple Surgical was born in Flagstaff. We established the business in Menlo Park, and after two and a half years there, our move back to Flagstaff came at the right time.” FBN
Symple Surgical, Inc.
2225 North Gemini Drive
P.O. Box 13, Suite W2
Flagstaff, AZ 86001
Written by Stacey Wittig
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