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Moving technology from campus to the marketplace

Rochester Business Journal
September 28, 2012

Transferring technology from where it is conceived in academia to where it can change lives in everyday use is a challenge. ICardiac Technologies Inc. is up for it.

"ICardiac is in a very exciting space," said Chairman and CEO Mikael Totterman. "We work with pharmaceutical companies to help them figure out if their drugs are safe from a cardiac perspective. We usually get involved with their clinical trials; it can be anything from very early stage studies to very large-scale, multithousand-patient studies. And we do the key analysis and scientific work right here in Rochester."

Spun off from the University of Rochester's Heart Research Follow-Up Program in 2006, iCardiac leapt over early hurdles with relative ease.

The technology was developed at UR, so the first step was spinning it off and getting the technology licensing and the team in place, Totterman said.

"We were very fortunate that within eight months of starting the company, we were able to secure a fairly large amount of venture capital financing-a little over $5 million. Then within a few months of financing we landed Pfizer as an equity investor and a research partner," he said. "Being able to work with one of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies right out the gates was one of the great early celebrations we had."

With biotech and pharmaceutical companies, it takes a long time to get new clinical technology validated and accepted for broad use in clinical trials. So when the Food and Drug Aministration finally said it was comfortable with iCardiac's analytics and then requested that they be used in a high-profile study to get a pharmaceutical product on the market, iCardiac knew it was heading in the right direction.

The company also was chosen for the Science Coalition 100, a national listing of great technology transfer success stories over the last 15 years.

Totterman said said the iCardiac team is gelling well.

"We have amazing functional leaders who work very well together. I often joke that, now that the company is so much larger, my job is much easier than it was at the beginning," he said.

Totterman is humble about his team's success, saying some of its great moves were calculated but others just seemed to happen.

"We knew that as a biomedical venture we needed enough capital and we needed very good technology," he said. "We worked with the U of R for the technology and worked hard to secure adequate financing.

"But one thing that was just fortunate was our relationship with the FDA. Most companies in this space can have an adversarial relationship with regulatory bodies. We developed a collaborative working relationship based on a mutual desire to move the field of cardiac safety forward, and have found them to be a great partner."

Another key to iCardiac's success that developed without planning was its healthy corporate culture.

"Our team is driven, proud of the work they do, and has each other's backs. They're also not afraid to say when something is going wrong," Totterman said. "I had read a lot about culture in business books, but I really have to hand it to the many members of the team for helping to build this culture of passion, teamwork and excellence. Seeing it work is really amazing."

Its success was made possible because of its great partners in UR and Pfizer, as well as the forward-looking venture capital investors at Stonehenge Growth Capital, Trillium Group and Advantage Capital Partners.

"Of course it could not have happened but for the many amazing iCardiac teammates who have dedicated their talents and energies into making iCardiac a success we can all be proud of," Totterman said.

9/28/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


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