Each year, more than 500 million men worldwide experience symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and prostate cancer, and another 12 million men receive a sure diagnosis. There are some treatments that patients can undergo to ease the pain of BPH, but none is comfortable or highly effective. NxThera is looking to change all of that.
NxThera, a venture-capital-funded, privately held medical device company was founded by Michael Hoey in 2008, with a first office in Shoreview, and moved to Maple Grove in 2012. NxThera was founded with the sole purpose of finding new technology to treat conditions like prostate cancer and BPH. Hoey’s background includes medical research in physiology and urology at the University of Minnesota, where he focused primarily on prostate disorders and the interaction of thermal energy in tissue at the cellular and molecular levels. When his father died of prostate cancer, Hoey started looking into a way to treat this cancer that was minimally invasive.
“We have been working on our convective water activated vapor energy (WAVE) platform,” says Bob Paulson, president and chief executive officer.
The idea behind WAVE is to use thermal energy to ablate obstructive tissue and cancer cells. “There are three ways to transfer heat energy: conduct, radiate or convectively radiate. When you think about water, you have to think about the phase shift it takes from a liquid boil to a vapor state. This is ideally what we are trying to do with our WAVE technology.”
The WAVE technology starts with drops of sterile water that are heated, converted to steam and then injected into the tissue surrounding the troublesome prostate tissue, whether that’s BPH, cancer or other obstructive tissue. When the vapor condenses back to a liquid state, thermal energy is then discharged into the tissue, where it kills the cells. The body then goes through a natural healing process to remove the dead tissue.
“There is enough stored energy within the WAVE to treat the tissue in a very controlled manner and in a very deliberate way,” Paulson says. “We have been designing this technology to be an office-based procedure without the use of anesthesia.”
During the past few years, NxThera has introduced WAVE technology to Europe and hopes to be cleared for commercial use in the U.S. by the FDA in 2015. Currently, the FDA has provided an Investigational Device Exemption, like a license, which allows NxThera to test and study safety and effectiveness.
The studies being conducted in Latin America, Europe and 14 sites in the U.S. led NxThera to be nominated for the Startup of the Year award at the 2014 Tekne Awards, hosted by the Minnesota High Tech Association (MHTA). They won in the Startup category for their work. The Tekne Awards recognize companies, innovations and people for technological breakthroughs that improve the lives and futures of people living in Minnesota and all over the world.
“This [Tekne] award not only recognizes what we are trying to accomplish, but it also promotes a very effective treatment for conditions [that affects millions of men],” Paulson says.
With an award for innovation and a new technology beaming, Paulson is very happy with where the company is headed. “Working with the team of people we have from development to clinical study to sales and marketing, we truly have an extraordinary team,” he says. “Just to see the difference you make in someone’s life and to see how the product is helping them is remarkable. It’s a very targeted approach to treat cancer and it makes a world of difference to the men who find themselves with the disease.”