Kona snags ex-SonoSite exec to helm renal denervation

Washington's Kona Medical has millions in venture cash and a novel approach to renal denervation, and now the startup has recruited an ultrasound expert to lead its development efforts.

Kona has appointed Jim Gilmore, a co-founder of point-of-care ultrasound outfit SonoSite, to lead as senior vice president and oversee the development of Surround Sound, the company's renal denervation system. Gilmore led SonoSite's R&D efforts until Fujifilm bought the company for $995 million in 2011, and his career in ultrasound technologies includes stops at GE Healthcare ($GE) and Diasonics.

Now Gilmore is tasked with leading commercial product development of Surround Sound, a noninvasive device designed to ablate nerves in the renal artery through focused ultrasound.

In its latest trial, Surround Sound patients reported an average 29-mmHg drop in systolic blood pressure after 6 months and endured no device-related serious adverse events, results that put the device in the same ballpark as catheter-based offerings from the likes of Medtronic ($MDT), Boston Scientific ($BSX) and Covidien ($COV).

The company hauled in $40 million in December to develop its tech, a round led by "a large medical device company," Kona said, leaving it at that.

Analysts believe the market for renal denervation could swell to around $3 billion worldwide in the next decade, and Kona is among at least three devicemakers developing noninvasive, ultasound-based treatments for hypertension. ReCor Medical, based out of California, is the farthest along with its CE-marked Paradise system, while Israel's Cardiosonic is in the midst of raising $16.1 million to develop a device called Tivus.

No renal denervation system, ultrasound or otherwise, has been approved by the FDA.

- read Kona's announcement

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