Tech Spotlight: Gerald McMorrow and Russell Garrison started VerAvanti with patents from the University of Washington for a camera that goes inside blood vessels.
For a medical startup, bringing new technology to the point where it becomes a standard part of care takes time — and a different funding model than venture capital, according to the founders of VerAvanti.
The Redmond-based startup, which is developing a camera that can see inside blood vessels, scooped up $5 million in a July funding round, but that was from friends, family and some investors, not from the venture-capital funding typical of a startup.
“We felt that we’d have more staying power … without the rigors of the VC model,” said Gerald McMorrow, VerAvanti’s founder and CEO. McMorrow, who holds a master’s in electrical engineering from the University of Washington, said he wanted to focus on long-term research and development, not on turning a profit as soon as possible. McMorrow personally put $12 million into VerAvanti, he said.
McMorrow and VerAvanti President and COO Russell Garrison started VerAvanti in 2013 after licensing patents from the UW for an endoscope designed to take HD-quality images of blood vessels. They hope it will help cardiologists discover what’s causing certain types of strokes and heart attacks:
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Cardiologists now don’t know what causes a third of all ischemic strokes — strokes from clots in the arteries that carry blood to the brain — according to McMorrow and Garrison. Doctors currently use MRIs, computerized tomography, and vascular imaging, such as intravascular ultrasound, to look for problems and causes, but the endoscope would be able to get into tiny veins and stents, areas that are usually missed by other types of imaging.
The endoscope was invented by UW’s Dr. Eric Siebel and a team of researchers.
McMorrow and Garrison have experience from running Verathon, another global medical-device company that makes bladder scanning and laryngoscopy equipment. McMorrow sold Bothell-based Verathon to Roper Industries in 2009, reportedly for $300 million.
Garrison said he took Verathon from about $12 million in annual sales in 1999 to between $150 million and $200 million a year by 2009. He and McMorrow want to replicate that success with the scanning fiber endoscope.
“We took two products from obscurity to standard of care,” Garrison said. “We expect the scanning fiber endoscope to be standard of care in a reasonable period of time … To the point that surgeons would be remiss in not using it.”
But that’s going to take years of research and development by VerAvanti, which now has 20 employees. McMorrow hopes that by the end of next year, VerAvanti will be putting the endoscope on the market.
“We’ve invested millions to bring this technology to market,” McMorrow said. “We’re excited.”