ICON Interventional: Transforming Vascular Intervention

A new ATDC member company is poised to revolutionize the cardiovascular medical device industry with two innovative products. ICON Interventional, housed in the ATDC Life Sciences Incubator at Georgia Tech, is developing both a bioabsorbable stent and a new stent material that is 50 percent thinner than the most advanced commercial coronary stent available.

“We have a breakthrough alloy material. Any cardiologist who’s looked at this has been wowed, and we think we have something,” said Jack Merritt, president and CEO of ICON. Merritt has more than 30 years of experience in the medical device arena, and he led the commercialization of the original Palmaz-Schatz Coronary Stent.

ICON has developed a proprietary metal alloy dubbed Nuloy™, and its properties permit the manufacture of stents with extremely thin struts without sacrificing radial strength. A stent is a small metal tube made of wire lattice that is inserted permanently into an artery to hold it open to allow blood flow. Stents currently on the market are made of either stainless steel or cobalt chromium.

ICON is using the Nuloy material to make both bare metal stents and drug-eluting stents, which use drugs to reduce the narrowing of arteries after stent placement. The company says its Nuloy material out-performs its competitors’ wall thickness, radial strength, recoil, deliverability and radiopacity – the ability to easily see the stents in X-rays.

“It’s very important that the stent be visible on angiography while physicians are doing a procedure, and our stents are much more visible compared to other well-known stents,” noted Merritt. “An ideal system has to maintain access, have a low risk of plaque recurring and be easy to deliver. This is more than a drawing and an animation – it’s a real-life product.”

Having successfully completed its first human clinical trial, ICON announced in 2007 that it had entered into a license agreement with ARIAD Pharmaceuticals, Inc. to develop and commercialize drug-eluting stents that deliver deforolimus, a drug that prevents restenosis (the recurrence of an abnormal narrowing of a blood vessel).

“ICON is one of the most innovative and promising medical device companies with broadly applicable technologies,” said Harvey J. Berger, M.D., chairman and chief executive officer of ARIAD. “ICON’s design and manufacturing capabilities have led to highly differentiated stent platforms and bioabsorbable polymer formulations that should enable its deforolimus-eluting stents to provide substantial benefit to patients with coronary and peripheral vascular disease.”

ICON is also developing a bioabsorbable stent called Biosorb™ that would eliminate the need for permanent, traditional metallic implants. In addition for allowing for extreme motion without strut fractures, the Biosorb stent technology incorporates a unique system of microneedles that delivers medication directly to the site of the inflammation that’s causing the narrowing. This controlled delivery of drug followed by stent absorption may result in improved outcomes. Mark Allen, Georgia Tech senior vice provost for research and innovation, serves as chief scientific consultant for ICON and has provided guidance in this area.

In February 2008, ICON was recognized by the Technology Association of Georgia as one of the top 40 most innovative technology companies in Georgia. The company, which has already raised around $15 million, will soon begin international and U.S. trials for the Nuloy bare metal stent and complete enrollment for a pivotal U.S. clinical trial in early 2009. The total worldwide stent market is estimated at more than $5 billion.

“Being a member of ATDC gives us access to facilities and programs at Georgia Tech, and we have already utilized analytical equipment that has allowed us to accelerate our product development efforts. In addition, there are expert resources on campus that always seem ready to provide advice,” Merritt said.

About the ATDC: The Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) is a nationally recognized science and technology incubator that helps Georgia entrepreneurs launch and build successful companies. ATDC provides strategic business advice and connects its member companies to the people and resources they need to succeed. More than 100 companies have emerged from the ATDC.

Headquartered at the Georgia Institute of Technology, ATDC has been recognized by both Inc. and BusinessWeek magazines as among the nation’s top nonprofit incubators. ATDC was formed in 1980 to stimulate growth in Georgia’s technology business base, and now has locations in Atlanta and Savannah. ATDC is part of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute. For more information, please visit (www.atdc.org).

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Writer: Nancy Fullbright

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