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Reinke: Biz Plan Contest Winner Sees Big Bucks in New Cardiac Surgical Device

By Brian E. Clark
For WisBusiness.com

Each year, more than 45,000 patients suffer complications – including death – from pulmonary artery catheters used to monitor their hearts during surgery.

Bonnie Reinke, president and CEO of the Middleton-based Eso-Technologies, would like to see the figure reduced to near zero.

Reinke hopes to do that with a less invasive cardiac-monitoring device inserted down the esophagus – hence the Eso in the company moniker – instead of through arteries in the legs (now the standard procedure).

Moreover, because many doctors don’t use catheters for fear of complications, overall patient health during surgery should be improved if clinicians used the Eso-Technologies device.

“Our goal is to develop our minimally invasive device here in the next 18 to 24 months,” said Reinke, a former GE Healthcare manager.

She got a big boost last month when she won the grand prize in the Governor's Business Plan Contest worth $50,000 in cash and aid.

“In a difficult economy, the visibility from winning the contest is outstanding,” explained Reinke, adding it has attracted additional investors.

“That (award) will certainly help us continue to move forward to our first clinical trials to prove the efficacy of our probe and our design,” she said.

“I’m also really interested in some of the services that are part of the prize buffet, if you will, to obtain legal and accounting assistance.”

Though flawed, she said the reason the device is the current ‘gold standard’ is because 35 million Americans and a whole lot more people around the world have serious heart disease or failure.

“And these folks, when they go into the hospital for surgery or end up in an intensive care unit need detailed and accurate, sensitive heart data given to the clinician to adequately treat them,” added Reinke, who says her company’s device could do the job better.

She said it will be safer because inventor Dr. John Atlee’s technique takes advantage of the commonly esophageal stethoscope now placed in almost every surgical patient around the world.

“Our patent and our technology allow us to add additional heart monitoring sensors, so the patient is already going to get something like our device anyway and we have just beefed up its capability,” she said.

Reinke said the market alone in the U.S. is 1.5 million units annually. Global sales are perhaps triple that figure, she added.

“So in terms of replacement it would be 3 to 4 million,” she said.

“The revenue side of that would be $400 to $500 million. However, the biggest part of the market will be the increased utilization of the devices for people who need cardiac monitoring who are not now getting it because of the know risk ...

"So total around the world, we think there will be market opportunities for 16 to 17 million units. From a revenue perspective, that could far exceed a billion dollars annually.”

Reinke said Atlee and Steve Gorski, who heads the company’s research and development efforts, began working together on veterinary patient monitors back in the 1990s.

Almost by accident, they found that by building various prototypes they could get cardiovascular and other crucial data via sensors in the esophagus. Over the past decade, Atlee was awarded six patents.

In addition to heart monitoring , Reinke said the company also has patents to do cardiac therapy, such as pacing.

“We won’t have just one single product; we’ll have a stream of patent-protected products planned as we take our company forward,” she said.

- Listen to audio of the interview

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