December 28, 2018 - Symple Surgical, Inc. is graduating from the Moonshot at NACET entrepreneurial program and relocating to Flagstaff Airport Airpark. The medical device company, which has been a client of both the city’s business incubator and accelerator programs since 2015, will quadruple the size of its office and manufacturing space, from 1,800 to 7,200 square feet.
“Not only are we graduating, but we are graduating with honors,” said Daniel J. Kasprzyk, president and CEO of Symple Surgical, Inc., (SSI) and Poba Medical. Poba Medical was founded in 2016 as a second company to supply SSI’s need for catheter devices and intricate balloon assemblies.
“We have created a business idea in under two years, proven the business model, grown strategically and now will scale to meet the overwhelming global demand for our products and services,” he added.....
“First we were in the incubator, then we moved into the accelerator, and now we’ve outgrown the accelerator,” said Kasprzyk in an exclusive interview with Flagstaff Business News. “If all [Moonshot at NACET] clients did that, there would be hundreds of jobs in Flagstaff that are not dependent on tourism. Success should be measured by jobs and money brought into the community.”
“This is in the true spirit of the City of Flagstaff’s investment in innovation and startups,” Kasprzyk said. “Other medical device manufacturers have brought tens of billions of dollars to this region. We hope to pump a small percentage of this revenue into the local economy as Poba Medical and Symple Surgical continue to navigate the difficult and regulated medical device industry.”
The expansion was necessary because of increasing demand for cleanroom and manufacturing space as Poba Medical serves as the R&D team for Symple Surgical, Inc., and other early-stage start-up medical device clients. It is the critical early product development phases that frequently derail innovative catheter design initiatives, Kasprzyk revealed. Poba Medical fills the need for catheter devices and balloons required by engineers developing heart valves, women’s health products and neurovascular and endovascular repair devices.
“We have machines back here in boxes that we couldn’t fit into the cleanroom [at Moonshot at NACET],” said Kasprzyk while giving an impromptu tour of the new space at 3001West Shamrell Boulevard in the Flagstaff Airport Airpark. Kasprzyk has co-founded several medical product start-ups, including Machine Solutions, which is also located at the Airpark.
“We’re trying to do things differently than other contract manufacturers,” said Kasprzyk. One of the innovations is selling interventional balloon and catheter products on the third-party ecommerce site Chamfr Marketplace. Poba Medical’s partnership with Chamfr gives device engineers an edge when prototyping medical devices. It enables engineers to test different medical balloons before they commit to custom orders. All Poba Medical products listed on Chamfr’s online site will have 24-hour delivery guarantees, which speeds up medical device prototypes and testing.
“We can generate revenue by producing extra parts that will sit [on Chamfr’s shelves] for a short time,” the CEO explained.
Another innovation includes partnering with Machine Solutions. “We just had a client fly in from Boston. He met with Machine Solutions and us on the same day. Our partnership with Machine Solutions makes it easy for our clients,” said Kasprzyk who has more than 25 years of experience in the medical device industry.
“This is a real living business that can help other companies develop,” he added. “They come to us with crazy ideas that use balloon devices. They have an idea and bring it to us, and then we provide development and early-stage manufacturing for balloon devices. At this point, word-of-mouth marketing has been bringing in customers.”
That will soon change as Lorenzo Johnson, a 2017 Northern Arizona University marketing graduate who is currently pursuing his MBA at W.A. Franke College of Business, was recently hired as marketing coordinator. He joins a team of employees including Principal Engineering Leader Sohail Desai; Catheter Engineer Bryce Igo; Quality Engineer Rodrigo Ojeda; Senior Engineering Technician Cristian Montanez; and Machine Operator Matthew Kies.
“We have incredible access to talent from NAU,” said Kasprzyk, who relocated SSI from Menlo Park, California, to Flagstaff in 2015 after learning about NACET. “From engineering to marketing to project management, it’s been a fantastic spigot for talent. As we continue to grow, 95 percent of our talent pull will be local.”
“This will create amazing career opportunities in Flagstaff,” said Moonshot at NACET President and CEO Scott Hathcock in a press release. “It’s another example of how Flagstaff is leading the way in the bioscience sector and bringing high-paying jobs to our region by attracting and nurturing our local entrepreneurs.”
SSI, which is developing innovative therapeutic technologies using controlled microwave ablation to treat Barrett’s Esophagus, was awarded a National Institutes of Health Small Business Innovation Research Phase I grant totaling $225,000. The grant will allow the company to continue work with Duke University to see if this minimally invasive ablation approach can also be used to treat resistant hypertension. Phase II of the NIH award would be in excess of $1.5 million.
According to the press release, SSI’s emerging technology was initially designed to help patients suffering from resistant hypertension and recently pivoted toward gastric reflux disease (GERD) and the subsequent onset of Barrett’s Esophagus, which can lead to esophageal cancer. An estimated two million people in the U.S. live with Barrett’s Esophagus, Kasprzyk said, and more than 60 million individuals live with GERD. FBN
By Stacey Wittig, FBN
Moonshot at NACET
Photo caption: (l-r) Mindy DeGraff, Matthew Kies, Rodrigo Ojeda, Daniel J. Kasprzyk, Cristan Montanez, Bryce Igo, John Carlson, Sohail Desai and Lorenzo Johnson gather at Symple Surgical’s new location at Flagstaff Airport Airpark.
Photo by Stacey Wittig