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Winnipeg firm to commercialize neurosurgery system

WINNIPEG – MONTERIS Medical Inc. has raised close to $9 million in new private equity, giving the Winnipeg medical-device company crucial financing to launch its neurosurgical product into the market.

In development for more than 10 years, Monteris received regulatory approval in the United States in May 2009 for its revolutionary technology, called AutoLITT, to treat deep-seated brain tumours that would typically be deemed inoperable.

Monteris President and CEO, Jim Duncan (pictured), said, “The AutoLITT System has the potential to become a new treatment option for patients suffering from brain cancer, one of the deadliest of diseases. Not only could it be an option for people who presently have no effective treatment options, but we believe that in some cases it could become a lower-cost or better quality-of-life alternative even if other options are available.”

The $8.6 million it just raised means Monteris will be able to ramp up marketing in the hope of closing at least six new installations before the end of the year.

Four hospitals in the United States have AutoLITT systems installed, including Cleveland Clinic's Rose Ella Burkhardt Brain Tumor and Neuro-Oncology Center, where the first tests on the device were performed.

University Hospitals (UH) Case Medical Center, also in Cleveland, fired up in September of last year. Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis was also installed last September.

Duncan said it was challenging to close the offering, but he felt lucky being able to do so in a difficult market. “We have come a long way since it was basically a research curiosity,” he said. “Now we are on the verge of a commercial breakthrough.”

The latest round of financing was led by a $4-million investment from BDC’s Health Venture Fund. Southwest Michigan First Life Science Fund and a number of Winnipeg angel investors also participated in the financing.

Gary Bantle of BDC said the company probably spent close to $30 million during development and it looks promising for achieving operating profitability, maybe as soon as 2012.

“We were attracted because it is disruptive technology, minimally invasive with a strong impact for the patient,” Bantle said. “No one else is doing it and there is a big market that you could protect.”

The AutoLITT systems uses a thin laser probe inserted safely into a tumour through a hole in the skull. Using specialized technology, the probe can be manipulated precisely to heat and kill tumour cells, avoiding damage to surrounding, healthy brain tissue.

Each unit costs about $300,000 and Monteris will derive recurring revenue of about $6,000 per procedure. Duncan estimates when systems are up and running, they may do as many as 100 procedures a year.

Monteris, whose technology was originally developed at the St. Boniface General Hospital Research Centre, received seed funding from the Western Life Sciences Venture Fund back in 2000.

Posted July 28, 2011