VCs bet on ultrasound

A Seattle-area company has just landed $30 million in venture capital financing to continue its efforts to develop methods to reduce high blood pressure using ultrasound.

That's on top of the $38 million that the company, Kona Medical, raised in April and $50 million it raised in March, reports GeekWire.

Kona is working on a method to use ultrasound for ablation of the renal nerves, which have been found to play a significant role in determining blood pressure. Kona's plan is to use non-invasive ultrasound waves from the back, focused to the precise depth and location to cauterize the renal nerves.

Minneapolis-based Medtronic developed a surgical method to cauterize the nerves, though that procedure is not yet approved for use in the United States. Medtronic and its competitors could rake in $1.5 billion to $4.4 billion a year, Ian Swanson, an analyst with the Millennium Research Group in Toronto, told Bloomberg.

The procedures are aimed at estimated 10 million people have "resistant hypertension," which means either it doesn't respond to medication or they can't stick with their drug regimen. A non-invasive procedure could expand that market to include people whose hypertension is not life-threatening.

More than 42 million people in the United States take medication to lower their blood pressure, a market that totaled $13.9 billion globally in 2011, Bloomberg says. Kona's treatment, if successful, could reduce those numbers.

The 18-person company plans to use the new funding to expand in Seattle and San Francisco, according to Xconomy.

Kona's chief operating officer John Bowers told MedCity News, "We envision a future where this could be done in an office setting." He declined to discuss a timeline for clinical trials.

With the effects of hypertension and stroke costing the costs the U.S. healthcare system $156 billion annually, the push is on to find better ways to treat this condition. Recent research found that telemonitoring that included pharmacist follow-up helped to keep patients on track with their medication.

To learn more:
- read the GeekWire story
- here's the Bloomberg story
- check out the Xconomy article
- here's the MedCity News article

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