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Category Archives: News
Intelligent Retinal Imaging Systems Raises Series B Growth Funding
PENSACOLA, Fla.—June 20, 2017—Intelligent Retinal Imaging Systems, Inc. (IRIS), the industry leader in early detection systems for diabetic eye disease, today announced the company successfully closed a round of Series B financing. The round was led by Ballast Point Ventures, a later-stage venture capital and growth equity firm that invests in rapidly growing, privately owned companies in the health care and technology industries. The round also includes investments from two healthcare system funds, Providence Ventures and current IRIS customer, CoxHealth. Funds raised will be used to support the company’s expansion and growth strategy as well as to support IRIS’s goal of developing the next generation of products that detect eye disease and improve the monitoring and care of patients in diabetic populations.
“IRIS was founded with the idea that through innovative and forward-thinking preventative care systems, we could save the sight of millions of patients,” said IRIS Founder and Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Sunil Gupta. “Everyone deserves a lifetime of sight. I am pleased that Ballast Point Ventures, Providence Ventures and CoxHealth have joined IRIS to improve the lives of patients with diabetes and see the value in our goal to develop the next generation of solutions.”
“With the capital from this financing, IRIS will be able to build on its leading position in the market while continuing to innovate and serve its forward-thinking health system clients,” said Matt Rice, Partner at Ballast Point Ventures. “We are excited to partner with Dr. Sunil Gupta, Jason Crawford, and the entire IRIS team to execute on the company’s mission of ending preventable blindness.”
“IRIS is emblematic of Providence Ventures’ investment strategy. Our fund’s interest was driven by deep insights collected from our Providence St. Joseph Health operating colleagues, and their enthusiasm regarding IRIS’s diverse and important value proposition. Providence St. Joseph Health’s clinical leaders are excited about the potential of the IRIS solution to dramatically enhance our ability to care for diabetic patients,” added Jeff Stolte, Partner at Providence Ventures.
“CoxHealth and IRIS have developed a partnership that has produced meaningful outcomes for our patients,” said Jake McWay, Senior Vice President and CFO of CoxHealth. “In recognition of the results we achieved over the last year, we were jointly awarded a 2017 Microsoft Health Innovation Award. We are excited to see the impact of this expansion and investment, and believe great things are ahead for this collaboration.”
The IRIS retinal telemedicine platform was developed to help end preventable, permanent blindness caused by diabetic retinopathy through early diagnosis. The IRIS platform is in place at 94 health systems across 28 states. IRIS seamlessly sits within a primary care physician’s existing workflow, dramatically increasing a health system’s ability to achieve superior annual diabetic retinopathy compliance rates. IRIS enables health systems to increase access, improve care coordination, lower costs and achieve 5-Star outcomes. In four years, IRIS clients have examined 183,498 patients with diabetes and found sight-threatening disease in nearly 31,624. One-third of the patients examined with the IRIS technology have been diagnosed with some form of retinal pathology.
“Great strides have been made to unseat diabetic retinopathy as the leading cause of blindness worldwide. The only barrier to success is early detection. IRIS closes the care gap for those patients that do not receive annual diabetic retinal exams. This investment will allow IRIS’s committed team and partners to execute to our vision of preventing blindness both here in the U.S. and worldwide,” added Dr. Gupta.
“Ballast Point Ventures, Providence Ventures and CoxHealth bring a deep understanding of the importance of population health management,” said IRIS CEO, Jason Crawford. “This investment will help us continue to improve the infrastructure, technology and services we deliver to our customers. It will lead to innovation that will place IRIS in a strong position to fuel the future of our product and improve the lives of every patient with diabetes that we touch.”
Matt Rice from Ballast Point Ventures and Jeff Stolte from Providence Ventures will join the IRIS Board of Directors, and Dr. C. Mark Costley, M.D. of CoxHealth will serve as Chair of IRIS’s newly established Clinical Advisory Board.
IRIS was advised by Ziegler, a healthcare-focused investment bank headquartered in Chicago, Ill.
About Ballast Point Ventures
Ballast Point Ventures is a later-stage venture capital fund established to provide expansion capital for rapidly growing, privately owned companies in diverse industries, with a particular emphasis on companies located in the Southeast and Texas. The BPV partners have more than 70 years of combined experience investing in and building high-growth companies in a number of industries, including healthcare, business services, communications, technology, financial services and consumer. BPV has $360 million under management and seeks to make equity investments ranging in size from $4 million to $12 million. www.ballastpointventures.com
About Providence Ventures and Providence St. Joseph Health
Providence Ventures was founded in 2014 to manage a $150 million venture capital fund on behalf of Providence St. Joseph Health. Providence Ventures aims to drive innovation across the health care system to improve quality and convenience, lower cost and create better health outcomes. Providence St. Joseph Health is a new organization created by Providence Health & Services and St. Joseph Health with the goal of improving the health of the communities it serves, especially those who are poor and vulnerable. Together, its 111,000 caregivers (all employees) serve in 50 hospitals, 829 clinics and a comprehensive range of services across Alaska, California, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas and Washington.
CoxHealth is the only locally owned, not-for-profit health system based in Springfield, Mo., and is nationally accredited by DNV GL – Healthcare. Established in 1906, the organization serves a 25-county service area in southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas, offering a comprehensive array of primary and specialty care through five hospitals and more than 80 clinics. CoxHealth also serves the unmet needs of its friends and neighbors by providing more than $148 million annually in community benefit. The health system includes Cox Medical Center South, Cox Medical Center Branson, Cox North Hospital, Meyer Orthopedic and Rehabilitation Hospital, Cox Monett Hospital, Oxford HealthCare (the nation’s second largest hospital-based home health agency), Home Parenteral Services (home infusion therapy), CoxHealth Foundation, Cox College, Cox HealthPlans and more.
About Intelligent Retinal Imaging Systems
Intelligent Retinal Imaging Systems (IRIS) is the industry leader in early detection systems for diabetic eye disease. The company’s IRIS solution is an end-to-end FDA-cleared, telemedicine system that has improved quality, expanded access and reduced costs for diabetic retinopathy exams across the U.S. IRIS was founded in 2011 by nationally recognized retina surgeon Dr. Sunil Gupta, with a vision to end preventable blindness through the development and deployment of retinal diagnostic services in the primary care setting. The IRIS team of physicians, technicians and best practice client success experts partner with forward-thinking providers and payers to enhance patient outcomes by closing care gaps in healthcare systems. IRIS is the recipient of the 2017 Microsoft Innovation Award and the 2016 Frost & Sullivan New Product Innovation Award in Diabetic Retinopathy. For additional information, visit www.retinalscreenings.com
“We are honored to be recognized by The Silicon Review Magazine as the one of the 50 Fastest Growing Companies of the Year 2017”
“The Silicon Review 50 Fastest Growing Companies of the Year 2017 program identifies companies which are revolutionizing the decision making and business growth process, and winning a spot on this list indicates the company has not only distinguished itself from peers by proving itself as one of the fastest growing companies but also helping other companies to gain momentum in the marketplace,” said Sreshtha Banerjee, Editor-in-Chief of The Silicon Review Magazine. The publication has selected Iconixx based on its financial growth, ability to retain customers, frequent innovation, and contribution to the IT sector at large.
“We are honored to be recognized by The Silicon Review Magazine as the one of the 50 Fastest Growing Companies of the Year 2017,” said Derrik Deyhimi, Founder and CEO at Iconixx. “We are very proud of our product, sales and customer service accomplishments, and expect to see that accelerated in the next year.”
Iconixx has increased its sales force significantly to continue its momentum of growth. The team is focused on making their customers’ lives better through product innovation and its unrivaled customer support.
Within every sales professional is a primal, quota-crushing beast. If you’re responsible for managing compensation, you are the beastmaster. The beastmaster has no time for tedious compensation routines using inferior tools like spreadsheets. The beastmaster, meanwhile, cannot abide the irritation of manual commission reconciliations. No. The beast cares only for the hunt. Iconixx is a sales compensation solution that automates commission plans and eliminates sales downtime caused by trivial administration. So get Iconixx – and unleash the beast. Iconixx is headquartered in Austin, Texas, and is online at www.iconixx.com.
AUSTIN, TX – MAY 16, 2017 – HotSchedules®, a leading provider of technology solutions for the restaurant and hospitality industries, announced Mike Arenth as Chief Executive Officer. Arenth started with the company in late 2016 and implemented key leadership changes to better support innovation and growth. Prior to joining HotSchedules, Arenth was a Senior Advisor to Silver Lake, an Executive Vice President at SAP and before that spent 10 years at Ariba as General Manager and Senior Vice President.
“Restaurants remain economic powerhouses but technology is rapidly changing the industry and I’m confident that Mike is the right person to lead HotSchedules forward,” said Kevin Costello, Chairman of HotSchedules. “He is a seasoned executive with proven ability to create strategic clarity, focus an organization and drive innovation and growth particularly in industries facing transformation.”
“HotSchedules is built on a solid foundation— great products, strong financials, very engaged users, world-class customers and a talented team dedicated to meeting the ever-changing needs of this evolving industry,” said Arenth. “I’m honored and excited to lead HotSchedules to create the next generation of intelligent back-of-house solutions that will help our customers drive into the future—thoughtfully, efficiently, successfully and profitably.”
The company also announced record usage numbers for its popular platform designed to streamline back-of-house operations including training, scheduling, time & attendance, shift communications, task management, inventory, financials and analytics. HotSchedules serves over 2 million users in over 130,000 locations across 26 countries.
In 2016 alone, HotSchedules customers:
- Scheduled 1.6 BILLION hours
- Exchanged 224 MILLION messages
- Traded 12.5 MILLION shifts
- Completed over 5 MILLION online training courses
- Completed over 1 MILLION online training certifications
- Generated over $65 BILLION in restaurant sales
- Purchased $24 BILLION in inventory through the platform
To further strategic momentum, the company has expanded its leadership team to include a dynamic group of executives to compliment the deep restaurant industry experience of Co-Founder David Cantu and the existing HotSchedules team.
The new leadership team includes:
- Ted Kondis, Chief Revenue Officer who brings experience in general management and sales from Ariba, Arthur Anderson and SAP.
- Neville Letzerich, Chief Marketing Officer who previously served as CMO at Forcepoint, LLC. Prior to that Letzerich held executive, product, marketing and consulting roles at EMC, Bazaarvoice and Accenture.
- Sean Fitzpatrick, Chief Operations Officer has been with the company for 3 years and is promoted to COO. Fitzpatrick previously served as Global Vice President of Strategy and Innovation at Oracle and has held senior leadership at BearingPoint, BroadVision and Lucent Technologies.
- Brian Gaffney, Senior Vice President of Engineering: After more than three years of engineering leadership within HotSchedules, Gaffney has been promoted to SVP Engineering. Prior to that, he spent fifteen years at software start-ups including, AmberPoint, App Dynamics, Symplified, and Emotive Communications.
HotSchedules provides mobile, cloud-based technology for the restaurant, retail and hospitality industries. The company is committed to serving those who serve others through a comprehensive suite of solutions that make working for and in restaurants – and beyond – more rewarding and efficient. The product suite solves the challenges associated with training, scheduling and managing labor, back-of-house operations and communications. HotSchedules is proud to serve more than 2 million users in over 130,000 locations across 26 countries. For more information visit: https://www.hotschedules.com.
Media Contact: Ryan Bearden, firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted May 2nd, 2017 by Business Wire
AUSTIN, Texas–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Iconixx software announces today it has closed $4.2M in new capital. This round of funding was led by existing investors Ballast Point Ventures, Harbert Growth Partners, S3 Ventures, and the Iconixx management team, resulting in $24 million in capital raised to date.
Iconixx, a global leader in enterprise class incentive compensation software, will use the funding to accelerate growth initiatives. The company has plans for product advancements and continued increase in market share by expanding its robust sales team.
“Our solid sales pipeline, proven customer success accomplishments, and product enhancements have propelled our rapid growth and award-winning customer support team. The hard work of our skilled team has driven our successes, and we expect to see these accelerated,” said Derrik Deyhimi, Chairman and CEO of Iconixx. “We are excited about our future growth and making the lives of each of our customers better.”
“We are proud of the accomplishments Iconixx software has achieved in product enrichments, customer acquisition and customer success. Our overwhelming confidence in the Iconixx compensation management solution leaves us excited for the continued partnership with the team,” says Matt Rice, Partner at Ballast Point Ventures.
Iconixx software listens intently to every customer’s challenge – treating every interaction as an opportunity to understand the unique compensation needs of each customer. We carefully diagnose the problem and prescribe an automated path by configuring our software to remedy critical compensation issues. Your cure is our success! http://www.iconixx.com/
About S3 Ventures
S3 Ventures is an early, expansion and growth stage venture firm with $200 million under management. The firm is focused on information technology solutions that solve large business problems and in medical devices that improve the human condition. S3 invests across all stages of a company’s growth and partners with the team to help focus methodically on what it takes to build a successful company. www.s3vc.com
About Harbert Growth Partners Funds (the “HGP Funds”)
The Harbert Growth Partners Funds are emerging growth stage investors focused on rapidly growing technology and healthcare companies headquartered in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern United States. The HGP Funds are affiliates of Harbert Management Corporation (“HMC”), an alternative asset management company which manages approximately $4.4 billion in Regulatory Assets Under Management as of June 30, 2016, from offices in 11 locations across the United States and Europe. http://www.harbert.net/
About Ballast Point Ventures
Ballast Point Ventures is a later stage venture capital fund established to provide expansion capital for rapidly growing, privately owned companies in diverse industries, with a particular emphasis on companies located in the Southeast and Texas. The BPV partners have more than 70 years of combined experience investing in and building high-growth companies in a number of industries, including healthcare, business services, communications, technology, financial services and consumer. BPV has $360 million under management and seeks to make equity investments ranging in size from $4 million to $12 million. www.ballastpointventures.com.
Posted March 17th, 2017 by StateChamps
BigTeams, the leading high school sports software platform in the US, has announced that it has partnered with Birmingham, Alabama-based StateChamps.com to provide online ticketing services to BigTeams client high schools.
“Increasingly, our clients and their fans have been asking for an online ticketing solution for high schools,” said Jeff Gilbert, BigTeams Founding Partner and Chief Product Officer. “In looking for a partner, we evaluated multiple ticketing companies’ ticketing solutions to high schools. In the end, StateChamps’ team and technology made it obvious to us that they are the winning solution” said BigTeams CEO, Joe Romano.
StateChamps’ patent-pending Share and TearTM Technology delivers electronic tickets to an app on the ticket purchaser’s smartphone. The ticket buyer then presents their phone at the gate, and the digital ticket is “torn” on screen by gate staff. “We designed the digital tearing process to be almost identical to the paper ticket redemption process;” StateChamps Chief Marketing Officer Eric Housh explained, “it requires neither ticket scanners nor internet, and gate staff can be trained in seconds.”
In addition to Share and TearTM, StateChamps’ team of over 60 ticketing professionals power an “Omni-Service” approach. After the school sends the schedule and ticket price information, StateChamps does the work to set everything up.
“The school gets secure, powerful, and hassle-free online ticketing at no cost, with no work required,” Housh said.
The StateChamps online ticketing solution will be included at no additional cost for new and existing BigTeams and ScheduleStar client schools, and will integrate seamlessly with BigTeams and ScheduleStar. StateChamps will also provide free printed tickets to BigTeams clients.
StateChamps is the exclusive online ticketing solution for hundreds of high schools nationwide, including seven state high school athletics associations. StateChamps was also recognized as a preferred vendor and online ticket supplier of the National Interscholastic Association of Athletic Administrators. For more information, please visit www.statechamps.com.
BigTeams is the leading provider of technology designed to streamline communication for high school athletic communities. BigTeams offers official websites for high school sports programs, time saving tools such as Schedule Star™, and other products designed to eliminate administrative burdens on AD’s and coaches, while connecting student athletes and fans through a single platform.
Posted March 15th, 2017 by PowerChord
PowerChord, a leading SaaS company that transforms how brands drive local sales, welcomed newly appointed company President, Steven Roth, to their growing executive team.
Roth joins the SaaS organization with almost 20 years of experience working with top-tier retailers, manufacturers and agencies from around the world. His addition brings a deep expertise in product innovation to PowerChord and will provide a strong foundation for the development of global enterprise level, eCommerce and retail advertising solutions at the hyper local level.
Hailing from Google, he has spent the past four years as a Group Product Manager after developing technology that is now part of Google Shopping during his tenure at Channel Intelligence – the Florida-based, global technology company acquired by Google in 2013. While at Channel Intelligence, Roth’s revenue breaking, international solutions were utilized in over 30 countries and operated across all corresponding languages and currencies. Previously, Roth held roles at Altiris / Wise Solutions, Profitstar and Metavante.
As PowerChord’s new President, Roth’s focus will center around expanding the comprehensive suite of products in the PowerChord Platform to increase long-term value and the scalable efficiencies that allow global businesses to control their brand, engage customers, and drive local sales through their dealer networks.
Roth will also propel the company towards emerging technologies and market-leading, digital solutions to meet the growing needs of the multi-location marketplace, while further optimizing the connection between online consumers and the global to local retail community.
“We have to think big” said Roth, “because that forces you to scale. I’m looking forward to that process and the exploration of how the needs of the market will influence us to move forward – the sky’s the limit when it comes to innovation. It’s a unique time in the company’s history and I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of it.”
“We’re honored to welcome Steven to the PowerChord team” said PowerChord CEO, Lanny Tucker. “We’re confident that his vision and operational excellence will bring exciting progress to our position as a SaaS leader and continue enhancing the company’s global value proposition for clients across a wide range of industry landscapes.”
Southeastern and Texas cities are doing particularly well among the country’s 200 largest metro areas, according to the Milken Institute
Congratulations to Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville as a few of the Florida metro areas with the strongest gains in their rankings!
Competing metros: Tampa Bay rebounds to best performance in decade in Milken Institute rankings
Posted December 16th, 2016 by Tampa Bay times
Here’s a feel-good column to unwrap this holiday season that will reveal the Tampa Bay metro area is rebounding as one of the better performing, larger metro areas in the United States.
That’s great news after a decade of rough times in the bay area economy, hitting a low ranking among the nation’s top 200 metros at No. 169 in 2009. That’s when the recession cut deepest in Tampa Bay and Florida, and the housing market bust was most intense.
So here’s the best gift, courtesy of the Milken Institute’s just released 2016 annual survey of the best performers among the country’s 200 largest metro areas.
Tampa Bay ranks No. 33, up 25 spots from No. 58 in 2015 and up a whopping 136 metro spots from seven years ago when this market pretty much hit bottom at No. 169.
That bears repeating. The Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metro area leapfrogged 25 (from 58 to 33) metro areas in one year and 136 of the nation’s 200 top metro areas since a low in 2009.
Looks like all the talk of “swagger” by Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn isn’t just political hype after all.
Why do we care if we are 33rd this year? Because the trajectory has been up seven years straight. These are not static changes. Every one of those 200 metro areas is striving to do better, to out-compete its peers.
Rising so quickly as Tampa Bay has is testament to the improved Florida economy but also points to the local efforts at economic gains achieved over time.
Tampa Bay’s ranking this year is the highest it has been since 2005, when this metro market ranked 25th by Milken in that year’s metro survey.
That’s an impressive comeback, one that underpins the growing confidence in this metro area’s broader business community. Unemployment is down. Tourism remains strong. A construction boom is under way from the downtowns of St. Petersburg and Tampa to southern Hillsborough north to Wesley Chapel.
And new companies with major league names like Johnson & Johnson and Citigroup are expanding here while up-and-coming area firms from CareSync and BlueGrace Logistics are winning strong investment backing and aggressively adding jobs.
And on Jan. 9, this market gets to kick off the new year by basking in the public spotlight as host of the third annual College Football Playoff National Championship at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
But enough with the self-congratulatory back slapping. There’s more to learn from the Milken Institute survey, which has been analyzing metro performances since 1999.
The survey’s “Best-Performing Cities: Where America’s Jobs Are Created and Sustained” index uses a comprehensive set of data to rank both 200 large and 201 smaller metros across the United States. Measures like growth in employment, wages and technology output are heavily weighted. Milken chooses not to include cost-of-living and quality-of-life conditions (which arguably would only improve Tampa Bay’s status).
Here are a few key takeaways from the overall survey.
- At No. 1, San Jose/Silicon Valley repeated as the top metro area among 200 large metros, both as the nation’s innovation capital but also for its top rating for wage growth.
- Top metro performers were strikingly stable compared with 2015. The top six large metros in the 2016 rankings were the same as last year, though there were a few ranking shifts among those six. In all, 19 of last year’s top 25 metros made the cut in 2016.
- Milken researchers said the top-performing metros have “cohesive strategies” that distinguish them from others and offer lessons that may be adaptable for other localities. Here’s one lesson for Tampa Bay: All the top ranked metro areas have major tech sector clusters and high rates of entrepreneurship. This market is working to raise its tech sector, and the still-young startup community here is gaining ground. Consider this a strong reminder to keep the focus, energy and resources on these core Tampa Bay sectors.
- While Tampa Bay’s comeback in the rankings is impressive, another Central Florida metro also deserves attention. The Orlando metro area ranked 9th in the nationwide large metro rankings, soaring from 28th last year and making it the only Florida metro area to crack the top 10 in 2016. The principal driver: job growth. The smaller Orlando metro market routinely outpaced job expansions reported in larger metro markets of Florida.
Let me suggest another factor in Orlando’s success not captured in the Milken survey. That metro area’s economic development organizations are regionally streamlined to speak with one voice. They are also efficient and communicate to each other so they rarely duplicate efforts or compete against one another. Tampa Bay, by contrast, still struggles to operate as a single market, though there are signs of improving cooperation.
- While Orlando, Tampa Bay, Fort Lauderdale and Fort Myers metro areas saw strong gains in their Milken rankings, Florida cities like Tallahassee, Pensacola, Ocala and Lakeland saw their rankings drop.
- In the related Milken rankings of 201 smaller metro areas across the United States, the Villages ranked tops in Florida at 13th, though it fell from 6th in the 2015 survey. Bringing up the rear: In Citrus County, the Homosassa Springs metro area ranked 170th, improving from 187th last year. The area’s economy, which encompasses Crystal River, was hurt by the premature closing of the Duke Energy nuclear power plant there. A replacement natural gas plant now in the works should help a slow rebound.
A final footnote: Among the top 10 large metros ranked by Milken are two Southeast markets (other than Orlando at No. 9). Raleigh, N.C., a perennial hot spot for higher wage jobs and a better educated workforce, ranked 6th this year, as it did in 2015. The other metro on the upswing is Nashville, which landed at 7th from 18th in 2015.
St. Petersburg economic leaders toured Raleigh earlier this fall to learn some of its best practices. Tampa business leaders took a benchmarking trip to Nashville in 2013.
These kinds of trips can only contribute to a better performing Tampa Bay market.
New Hope for Spina Bifida’s Youngest Patients
Posted November 1st, 2016 by TMC
Seven years ago, Lovepreet K. Mann was standing at a crosswalk in Salt Lake City with her husband and colleague, Dr. Ramesha Papanna. They had been testing an underwater glue for fetal surgery, and a thought suddenly occurred to her. There, on the street in Utah, the couple began a discussion that would ultimately lead to a patch made from human umbilical cord. Today, it is being used to help repair spina bifida in babies before they’re even born.
A “super C-section”
Spina bifida is a birth defect characterized by an incomplete closing of the bones and membranes surrounding the spinal cord. In most cases, tissues and nerves are exposed in an opening along several vertebrae in the baby’s back, making him or her highly susceptible to life-threatening infections and sometimes triggering complete paralysis of the legs as well as bladder incontinence and a range of cognitive difficulties. The condition is typically detected in a pregnant woman’s 20-week anatomy scan, during which time the ultrasound tech identifies either a lemon-shaped head or a “banana sign,” both caused by pulls in the cranial area from the spinal malformation.
For decades, the standard treatment has included postnatal surgery, but sentiments shifted after the groundbreaking NIH-funded MOMS Trial (Management of Myelomeningocele Study) initiated in 2003, in which standard repair results were benchmarked against more than 90 fetal repair cases. The results spoke volumes. Babies who underwent fetal repair were much less likely to need a ventricular shunt for hydrocephalus. Furthermore, twice as many children from the fetal surgery group were able to walk without crutches at 30 months of age, compared to those who received the surgery after birth.
Not all patients qualify for the highly specialized, extremely complex procedure, which involves either pulling the skin together or stitching a patch directly onto the spina bifida site of the fetus while it is still in the mother’s womb. Likened to a “super C-section,” the intricate series of surgical steps (making an incision in the mother, protecting the placenta, opening up the amniotic sac, preserving the fluid, performing the repair through a tiny three-inch by four-inch window in the uterus, replacing the fluid, closing the uterus and then the mother layer by layer) is also not without risk. Most babies who undergo fetal surgery will be born prematurely. There is potential for post-surgical complications and infections. There is the risk of death. And, until Mann, a research instructor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at McGovern Medical School, thought of using the regenerative material she and Papanna had been studying to patch the site, there was the likely possibility of scar tissue formation, which meant further injury to the spinal cord as the child grew and developed.
Originally, Papanna, the principal investigator and an assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at The Fetal Center at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, was interested in using amniotic membrane from the placenta to seal fetal membranes—the layers of the amniotic sac—after surgeries in utero. He and Mann flew to Miami to meet with expert ophthalmologist Scheffer C.G. Tseng, M.D., Ph.D., who was using a human amniotic membrane patch to repair corneas. After spending a week in his center, the two were even more impressed at its regenerative properties.
What makes the material so “magical,” as Papanna puts it, is a compound called heavy chain hyaluronic acid/pentraxin3, which initiates natural regeneration of the tissues at the repair site, rather than healing by scar formation. The distinction is important in spina bifida repair since one creates a healthy, biologically compatible environment while the other often leads to scarring of the spinal cord to the repair site. This can lead to loss of bladder and motor function later in life. If scarring occurs, further surgeries are required to remove the scar tissue and protect the spine.
“The molecule is the same one that is present around the egg of every woman who ovulates every month, in the lining of the womb and the placenta. This is essential to maintain normal reproductive function,” Papanna said. “Nature has created a solution, and we have harnessed it to our benefit.”
But this wasn’t the fairytale ending Papanna and Mann had hoped for. Despite its phenomenal healing properties, the amniotic membrane patch was paper-thin and flimsy, making it difficult to work with.
“If the site gets infected, the baby dies,” explained Kenneth Moise, M.D., director of the Fetal Intervention Fellowship Program at McGovern Medical School and co-director of The Fetal Center at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. “It’s covering the spinal cord, so it has to be a watertight seal—CSF [cerebrospinal fluid] can’t leak out and infections can’t come in.”
Unfortunately, every time Papanna practiced his stitches on the delicate material, it tore. So he looked to the umbilical cord, which contains the same “magical” molecules as the amniotic membrane, but is thicker and far more pliable.
“It was so obvious,” Papanna said. “The umbilical cord has the same regenerative properties.”
Mann and Papanna contacted Tseng, who created a new patch and sent it back to them for testing. After suturing multiple chicken breasts and injecting blue dye as a proxy for cerebral spinal fluid, Papanna and Mann were satisfied that it could provide the watertight seal necessary for spina bifida repair. Papanna’s lab studied its performance in animal models and he was granted approval from the FDA for clinical use in three cases. He and a team of surgeons including Moise, Kuojen Tsao, M.D., co-director of the Fetal Center at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital and an associate professor at McGovern Medical School’s Department of Pediatric Surgery, and pediatric neurosurgeon Stephen Fletcher, D.O., an associate professor in McGovern Medical School’s Department of Pediatric Surgery, performed the first surgery in July 2015. A second case was performed a few months later, and the results of the two surgeries were published in Obstetrics and Gynecology in July of this year.
So far, they have been success stories. In both cases, the surgeries went well and the babies were born at 37 and a half weeks, just three weeks shy of full term. At birth, the patch was still in place and there were no signs of leakage or fluid inside. Moreover, both babies retained lower limb function as well as normal bowel movements. The one peculiarity was that, at birth, the site had not yet regenerated—it was semi-translucent, and when Papanna tapped the baby’s head, he could see the cerebrospinal fluid underneath the patch. Within a few weeks, however, the skin grew into the patch exactly as expected.
“Every day you could watch the blood vessels and the tissues grow closer together,” Papanna said. “It was incredible.”
A third case was completed and as the months pass, all three babies continue to exhibit normal leg movement and bladder control and no need for further repair. The true test will come with time, but already the patch is showing promise as the next big advancement in fetal surgery: whereas the MOMS Trial demonstrated that fetal surgery could vastly improve outcomes in mobility and neurological development, this patch could take the procedure a step further, resulting in an even more improved outcome for children with spina bifida. Perhaps, in the future, there will be no more need for surgical revisions, no additional repairs, few if any symptoms. An entirely normal childhood.
“People are trying stem cells and different ‘off the shelf’ patches, but this patch is doing more than any of the others,” Mann said. “It’s helping with regeneration of existing skin. It’s creating organized growth of tissues, and the body doesn’t reject it. Even more, its source is abundant since the umbilical cord from every pregnancy could produce a new patch.”
“Where are all the other babies?”
Currently, Papanna and his team are pursuing additional clinical studies and working to expand their approval from the FDA for more cases. They hope to apply the patch using fetoscopic repair techniques, which would reduce surgical risks to both the mother and the baby. Ultimately, they also aim to create a standard of care for babies diagnosed with spina bifida.
“Right now, the techniques being used to close the spina bifida are all over the map, and the outcomes vary considerably,” said Moise, who recently returned from Botswana where the International Fetal Medicine and Surgery Society convened for their annual conference.
“Nobody has a standard way of treating this, but we all agree that whatever patches or fetoscopic approach we use, the outcomes should be judged against the MOMS Trial. We all want to develop something better than what we’re already doing.”
Moise expects that a standard of care, as well as increasingly positive outcomes, will also encourage OBGYNs to refer more of their patients to fetal centers for counseling.
“We should be three times busier than we are,” Moise said. “There are over 200 babies born in Texas every year with spina bifida. Two hundred. And we might do eight or 10 cases a year. Where are all the other babies?”
Even more, he hopes standardizing treatment will change the climate surrounding fetal repair surgery worldwide. Currently, there are only a handful of sites outside the U.S. that do fetal surgical repairs. According to Moise, many countries, including most of Western Europe, consider a spina bifida diagnosis the equivalent of an unviable pregnancy.
“They think we’re crazy to do what we do,” Moise said.
Posted November 14th, 2016 by Birmingham Business Journal
A Birmingham company is poised to capitalize on nearly two decades of steady growth and innovation in financial technology, thanks to a $5 million venture capital investment from Florida-based Ballast Point Ventures.
Prepaid Technologies in October announced the investment, just months after it teamed up with Visa to provide wearable tech payment rings at the summer Olympics.
Though Prepaid believes wearable tech is an industry worth exploring – the company is working on another project with MasterCard and U.S. Youth Soccer – the company’s bread-and-butter remains in electronic payments options like payroll cards, prefunded purchasing cards and incentive programs. The company was founded in 1998 by Thomas McCulley.
“The old-fashioned check processing methods cost businesses a lot of money and a lot of time,” Prepaid President Stephen Faust said. “We’re seeing a huge expansion in corporate purchasing card. These products can be implemented for businesses for very little costs, very quickly. They make a difference to businesses’ bottom line.”
BPV’s investment will allow Prepaid to strengthen their IT capacity, Faust said, streamlining and automating internal process flows to allow staff to work more on client satisfaction and developing product. Prepaid will also add staff and develop their marketing arm.
Faust said the company has benefited from hiring account managers with higher education levels, in addition to banking and finance experience.
“Being able to recruit locally and find talented people to help us move the needle is really exciting,” Faust said.
Faust joined the company in 2008 and began building out their suite of services and technology. The company was expanding around 20 percent annually, Faust said, when McCulley handed over the reins to Faust, who happens to be his son-in-law. Though McCulley remains involved on a daily basis, Faust said he saw potential to grow the business to the next level.
“70 percent of the businesses in the U.S. are still processing payroll checks,” Faust said. “So the opportunity of finding efficiencies there and moving those folks to electronic pay at no cost is a huge opportunity for us.”
Prepaid began to attract venture capital attention, but Faust said he and McCulley felt that nothing seemed like the right fit until they were contacted by Ballast Point. BPV brought “smart capital” to the table, Faust said, because they’d previously invested in a similar company and knew how to take the business to the next level.
“Tommy and I knew it was a no-brainer,” Faust said. “They’re great partners, and we still have control over company to direct it how we see fit. But having that horsepower behind us, with the smart money, made the timing made sense.”
Their Prepaid investment isn’t BPV first venture into Birmingham: the firm recently invested another $5 million into ticketing software company TicketBiscuit.
“We were very impressed with what Tommy and Stephen have achieved to date with no outside capital, and we look forward to working with the entire Prepaid Technologies team as they continue to grow and develop innovative payment solutions for the payroll, loyalty and rewards needs of their clients and partners,” Paul Johan, Ballast Point Ventures partner, said in a release. “Payments and financial technology are areas that are very interesting to BPV given our previous investments in the sector, so we are excited to partner with the talented team at Prepaid Technologies to build a leading payments technology platform in Birmingham. This is a great fit for us given our focus on partnering with rapidly growing private companies with great management teams headquartered in the Southeastern United States and Texas.”
Congratulations to Tampa, Orlando and Miami on making the list of the top 100 World’s Best City Brands! It’s no surprise to us, but it’s nice to see others recognizing great Florida cities!
Why Tampa was named a World’s Best City brand
Posted November 8th, 2016 by Tampa Bay Business Journal
Tampa has made it onto the list of 100 of the World’s Best City Brands, taking the No. 81 spot.
As one of three Florida cities in Resonance Consultancy’s 2017 World’s Best City Brands report, Tampa faced stiff competition from major, cosmopolitan locations across the globe. Resonance compared principal cities that are defined as the largest city in each urban area with metropolitan populations of 2 million and capital cities with a population of 1 million or more.
Miami ranked No. 31 while Orlando was No. 45 on the list.
“Increasingly, reputation, identity and the perceived quality of place determine where talent, capital and tourism flow,” Resonance said in its report.
The top 10 cities on the list are:
3. New York
7. Los Angeles
9. San Francisco
To measure the perceived appeal of a city in which to live, invest or visit, Resonance based its evaluation on six criteria: place, product, programming, people, prosperity and promotion.
In the place category, Tampa ranked No. 59. In this category, Resonance scrutinized the average air quality index; the average number of sunny days; the homicide rate; the number of excellent neighborhoods and landmarks recommended by locals and visitors; and the number of excellent parks and outdoor activities recommended by locals and visitors.
In the product category, Tampa didn’t fare as well. Resonance examined the ranking of the top local university; the number of direct destinations served by the airport; the size of convention center; the number of very good or excellent attractions and amusements recommended by locals and visitors; and the number of very good or excellent museums and fine arts institutions recommended by locals and visitors. Despite Tampa International Airport’s high scores on other travel lists as well as the number of new nonstop foreign destinations it is providing this year and next, Tampa ranked No. 93 on the list of 100.
In the programming category, Resonance compared the number of very good and excellent shopping, nightlife, restaurants and cultural and performing arts experiences recommended by locals and visitors. Tampa ranked near the bottom of the list in this category, coming in at No. 98.
Under the people category, Resonance measured the percentage of the population that is foreign born. The company’s rationale was this: “The more diverse a city’s population, the more it produces global ideas … on a local scale.” Here, Miami ranked high, taking the No. 4 slot. Orlando was No. 50 in this category while Tampa was No. 56.
Under the prosperity category, Resonance evaluated a city’s unemployment rate, its GDP per capita and number of Global 500 corporate headquarters. Here, Tampa was ranked No. 59.
Finally, in the promotion category, Resonance looked at “city’s ability to tell its story” and examined the amount and frequency of media coverage, online articles, references and place-based recommendations that influence the perception of a city on a daily basis. Resonance looked at Google references to the city and TripAdvisor reviews. Tampa was No. 90 on the list despite aggressive marketing campaigns to out-of-state and overseas locations by Visit Tampa Bay and Visit St. Pete-Clearwater.
Resonance collected the data during the third quarter of 2016.