|Dennis McWilliams, CEO of Apollo Endosurgery|
Based: Austin, TX
The Scoop: Apollo Endosurgery is revolutionizing the way surgery is performed by providing tools to perform incision-less surgery using a flexible endoscope.
What Makes It Fierce: Previously, the endoscope has been used for diagnostics procedures rather than true surgical intervention, primarily to visualize and then obtain esophageal or intestinal samples for testing. But the company has found a way to transform an endoscope into a versatile surgical tool. Apollo's flexible tools, led by an OverStitch endoscopic suturing device, are designed to be attached to an endoscope and allow the surgeon to perform surgical procedures without any incision, passing through the mouth or rectum. Such an advance leapfrogs well beyond even laparoscopic surgery, which for gastrointestinal procedures typically involves at least a small hole in the stomach, and is certainly worlds apart from a traditional, open surgical procedure. After having raised an $11.5 million Series A in 2007, the 40-employee company pulled in another $47.6 million in a Series B round last February, adding new investors Novo A/S, Remiditex Ventures and CPMG to a venture mix along with previous investors PTV Sciences and H.I.G. BioVentures.
FierceMedicalDevices previously highlighted Apollo as one of the top med-tech financings so far in 2012. And we see the company as having serious momentum in the months ahead, thanks to that major cash infusion earlier this year. With 11 products so far cleared by the FDA, founder, President and CEO Dennis McWilliams tells FMD that the company's funding has so far allowed it to actively commercialize three of them. Two are already out: OverStitch and the Apollo tissue helix, which grabs and holds onto different layers of tissues within the GI tract. Apollo is revving up for the U.S. distribution of the third product by year-end: the Apollo OverTube, a device used to protect the esophagus while delivering a flexible endoscope and surgical instruments to the GI tract. All are compatible with existing flexible endoscope technology.
Apollo is playing for keeps. The company recently named former Covidien Chairman and CEO Richard Meelia to its board of directors, and executives are focused on enabling customers to use its flexible endoscopic surgical tools for a number of different procedures, in areas including bariatric surgery and gastric cancer treatment. Physicians from the Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins University, Medical University of South Carolina, the University of Texas Medical Branch and the Chinese University of Hong Kong played a role in developing a swatch of surgical tool patents that formed the basis for Apollo.
What To Look For: Apollo stands to upend the existing surgical standards with its products and advance a laparoscopic surgical tool market that is already in excess of $4 billion. McWilliams says the company is not focused on partnerships, but simply commercializing its products and "and building market opportunity." While Apollo expects that it may need additional venture financing in the future, the initial focus is on "becoming cash-flow positive and building a business that can stand on its own." And while there may not be an IPO window right now, McWilliams isn't ruling one out in the future.
"We do feel that Apollo meets the fundamental business outline and framework that I think would be interesting to the public markets," McWilliams says. "We have multiple products cleared by the FDA addressing multiple clinical applications in a larger, billion-dollar market piece with global market opportunities" ahead.
-- Mark Hollmer (Twitter | email)
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