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Pine-based startup finds right market for heart monitor | TribLIVE.com
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Pine-based startup finds right market for heart monitor

PTRintelomed1052416
James Knox | Tribune-Review
Jill Schiaparelli, CEO of InteloMed, a Pine-based company that makes heart monitoring technology, oversees operations at the company's offices on Thursday, May 19, 2016.
PTRintelomed2052416
James Knox | Tribune-Review
These tablets are the interface for InteloMed's patient monitoring system called CVInsight.
PTRintelomed3052416
James Knox | Tribune-Review
A sensor reads a patient's pulse in InteloMed's CVInsight heart monitoring system.

InteloMed Inc. was positioned to capture a piece of the lucrative medical device market in 2012 when its noninvasive heart-monitoring system cleared regulatory hurdles in the United States and Europe.

But by the middle of 2015, the Pine-based company hadn’t generated sales and was still trying to figure out how to break into the market despite its promising technology and millions of dollars in backing from investors.

CEO Jill Schiaparelli, who was hired in August to revamp the company’s strategy, said InteloMed initially didn’t have the right marketing focus to make the heart-monitoring system attractive. It targeted an overly broad market, concentrating on the technical details of the equipment rather than selling its medical benefits.

“Growth in a startup isn’t hard because there are no opportunities; it’s (difficult) because there are too many opportunities,” Schiaparelli told the Tribune-Review during a recent interview at the company’s office.

Schiaparelli, who joked that her employees are sick of hearing her say “focus,” pointed InteloMed toward outpatient dialysis centers — a relatively small and easy-to-penetrate market that would benefit from noninvasive heart monitoring.

The company landed its first contract at the end of last year that is bringing InteloMed’s CVInsight monitoring system into Cleveland-area clinics owned by Centers for Dialysis Care.

Schiaparelli declined to disclose sales figures for privately held InteloMed. She estimated that the market for noninvasive heart-monitoring systems at dialysis clinics is worth $450 million a year. The total noninvasive heart-monitoring market is pegged at $2 billion a year.

Since August, she doubled the company’s workforce to 16 employees by beefing up the marketing and product development teams and hiring a chief financial officer. The company landed $3 million in funding from investors last month that will help Schiaparelli build a national sales force.

Schiaparelli joined InteloMed from AxoGen Inc., a Florida-based medical device company. There, as chief marketing officer, she helped expand sales from $7 million to $34 million a year.

InteloMed had great technology, but it was trying to sell the device on its technical merits, Schiaparelli said.

“People don’t care how it works; they want to know what it will do for them,” she said.

What CVInsight is expected to do for clinics, she said, is help them quickly detect heart stress in the more than 420,000 patients undergoing dialysis, which can lead to heart attack.

Most clinics take occasional pulse and blood pressure readings, which can miss fluctuations and other indicators or heart stress. CVInsight continuously monitors the heart and provides real-time feedback to clinicians.

One of the most common causes of death for people with kidney disease and renal failure is heart attack, said Dr. Robert Biederman, an Allegheny Health Network cardiologist.

“The reason that patients die from renal failure is cardiac failure,” Biederman said. “It’s a major issue and people have looked for a long time for ways to reduce that.”

Dr. Ravi Ramani, director of UPMC’s Integrated Heart Failure Program, said it’s very difficult to track how much stress dialysis causes a patient’s heart without using invasive procedures, which aren’t viable in an outpatient clinic. To avoid harming patients, dialysis clinics may not fully flush wastes from the body.

“In patients with sick hearts the challenge is to figure out how much fluid to take off,” Ramani said. “It’s a difficult challenge in the best of circumstances.”

CVInsight would alert clinic staff if the dialysis patient is experiencing cardiac stress so that they could reduce the treatment or make other changes to lower the impact, Schiaparelli said. Conversely, a patient who’s handling the treatment well could have the dialysis cranked up to remove more toxins.

InteloMed’s system uses a single sensor placed on a patient’s forehead to measure pulse. The continuous measurements are fed into InteloMed’s proprietary software, which provides real-time readings on pulse strength and irregularities in the heartbeat, oxygen saturation in the blood and other factors — which are used to determine the amount of stress to the patient’s cardiovascular system.

“The only other way to get that level of data is with implantable or more invasive devices,” Schiaparelli said.

While working to expand sales to more dialysis clinics, InteloMed is developing systems for other markets that could benefit from heart-monitoring technology, she said.

She declined to specify which market InteloMed will target next, though the company is exploring emergency medicine and surgical applications, among others.

“There’s no reason this thing can’t fly,” she said. “My job is to make it soar.”

Alex Nixon is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7928 or anixon@tribweb.com.

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