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BioCrossroads seeds upstart medical device maker

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BioCrossroads’ Indiana Seed Fund has invested $300,000 in a startup company developing an absorbable stent to treat cardiovascular disease.

Zorion Medical is chaired by former Eli Lilly and Co. executive David Broecker, who has relocated to Indianapolis from Boston. Broecker, a Wabash College graduate in chemistry and mathematics, previously was president and CEO of Cambridge, Mass.-based biopharmaceutical company Alkermes Inc.

Broecker also is CEO of BioCritica Inc., a locally-based firm founded last May that acquired commercialization rights to Lilly’s Xigris, a drug to treat the blood infection sepsis.

The BioCrossroads investment in Zorion will help fund further proof-of-concept work, including another pre-clinical study Zorion plans in the first quarter of 2012 involving animals.

The company developed a stent that can be absorbed into the body—essentially to disappear.

The biomaterial also can deliver drugs to help heal the artery.

Stents—mesh-like tubes—are implanted to prop open narrowed arteries. Traditionally they’ve been made from metal and designed to be a permanent fixture in the artery. The downside is that clotting may occur, requiring patients to take blood thinners.

Medical device companies have been developing stents that can be absorbed into an artery. Most of these, including one recently launched by Abbott Laboratories, are made of a polymer material and take up to two years to disappear in the body.

Zorion’s stent is made of a metal-like substance that is said to disappear in only three to six months. Broecker has likened Zorion’s product to a splint rather than a stent.

Another potential market advantage of Zorion’s metallic-based absorbable material is that cardiologists are already familiar with the properties of metal stents.

“We hope to be a fast follower” to polymer stents, said Broecker.

“Fast” is relative in the highly regulated medical device industry. Broecker said a market launch in five years is probably a safe bet. A partnership with an established player in the cardiology market is a possibility.

In the meantime, the upstart has been operating much as a virtual company, with its handful of employees scattered as far as Europe.

Broecker said he is hopeful of building jobs in the Indianapolis area as stent development and testing progresses.

Metal and drug-eluting stents are a $6 billion market globally.

“It’s obviously an enormous market and this is very disruptive technology,” said David Johnson, president and CEO of BioCrossroads, saying Zorion’s approach has the potential to be a “tremendous breakthrough technology.”

The $6 million Indiana Seed Fund was launched in 2005.  Zorion represents its 12th investment.

Periculum Capital, an Indianapolis-based private investment and merchant banking group, also made an undisclosed investment in Zorion, Biocrossroads said.

BioCrossroads is the state's initiative to grow the life sciences industry.

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