SpinaFX taps Medtronic, Zimmer Biomet alum as CEO of image-guided pain treatment startup

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SpinaFX is in the process of commercializing Triojection, a minimally invasive treatment option for back pain caused by herniated discs in which a needle inserted into the affected disc delivers an oxygen compound meant to reduce inflammation and pain over time. (tiero/Getty Images)

Though there’s always a certain measure of risk that comes with joining a startup—especially those working to develop new products in the highly regulated field of medical devices—an increasing number of seasoned medtech executives have jumped ship from their stable, well-established roles to dive into the murky waters of the startup world.

The latest to take the plunge is Jeff Cambra, who’s held top spots at Zimmer Biomet, Medtronic and more and is now offering up that expertise to take on the role of CEO at SpinaFX.

The Canadian company launched only recently with its first offering, Triojection, an image-guided therapy for back pain caused by a herniated disc. During the procedure, a physician uses fluoroscopy to guide a needle into the affected disc, where it delivers a dose of an oxygen compound that aims to reduce inflammation and pain over time.

The system aims to offer a minimally invasive alternative to traditional surgical procedures that’s easier for surgeons to perform and quicker for patients to recover from.

SpinaFX revived the technology from the now-defunct Minimus Spine, which received a CE mark for Triojection in 2014. With stricter regulatory guidelines put in place since then, SpinaFX is now pursuing a new European approval for the system as well as additional agency OKs in the U.S., Canada and beyond.

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Cambra will help lead that charge. He joins SpinaFX fresh off an eight-month stint at Zimmer Biomet, where he served as a vice president in charge of product management within the device maker’s global reconstruction business.

Prior to that, he spent more than a decade at Medtronic. During that time, he worked his way up the ladder from marketing director to senior director of business development and strategy to, finally, a vice president and general manager of the medtech giant’s interventional therapies segment. In his final position at Medtronic, Cambra oversaw the development of new technologies and the formation of partnerships and acquisitions to boost the company’s work in vertebral augmentation and oncology.

Before making the leap to medtech, Cambra spent another decade in pharmaceuticals. Until 2009, he held a handful of roles at Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer of Robitussin and Advil that was purchased by Pfizer in 2009.

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“I’m excited and honored to join SpinaFX bringing its novel medical treatment for back pain to market. With my passion for the interventional space, I constantly assess and monitor multiple promising technologies—I recognized the breakthrough potential of SpinaFX’s technology over a decade ago,” he said in a statement. “SpinaFX is an excellent opportunity to leverage my experience in the medical device field to deliver value for our patients, our customers and our shareholders.”

And Cambra isn’t the only Medtronic veteran to strike out on a new path in recent months. At the beginning of this year, Vafa Jamali, formerly a senior vice president for Medtronic and president of its respiratory, gastrointestinal and informatics divisions, was named CEO of the spinoff company composed of Zimmer Biomet’s dental and spine businesses.