Monday, September 25, 2006

Asthma: The First Aperon Biosystems Article

Unfortunately, this article is not available anymore, so I've put it here. We did this interview a long time ago while still in the early days of the company. As you can tell, I enjoy history, especially my own :). I hope the folks at the Merc don't mind:

When illness leads to innovation
By Michele Chandler

San Jose Mercury News

Entrepreneur Paul Lovoi of Saratoga was pushing ahead with his latest company, which is developing a device to treat people with a condition that causes blindness. Then, in March, tragedy hit.

His wife of 26 years, Janice, died suddenly after a weakened artery in her brain burst. At his wife's wake, Lovoi vowed to their friends that he would find an easy way for others to detect life-threatening hemorrhagic strokes before it's too late.

[ . . .]

Few inventors create medical devices because an up-close calamity pushes them. They face the same hurdles as other entrepreneurs: needing experience, documenting a void in the market and getting cash.

``Most people who have a personal tragedy aren't adept enough to start a medical device company. They don't have the right background or training. It's a special situation to end up there,'' said Casey McGlynn, a San Jose attorney and prolific fixer of medical device
deals in the Valley.

On average, it takes five years and tens of millions of dollars to get a would-be device from the drawing board to everyday use -- if the Food and Drug Administration gives its approval. And these days, venture capital firms are skittish about putting their money on ingenue developers. They favor business plans, market analysis and sales projections above emotion and personal drive to make a difference.

Perhaps they should consider those other factors, said Patrick Lynn, co-founder of Palo Alto's Rinat Neuroscience.

``Often times, people can make up for that with the passion derived from their personal experience. You don't count them out,'' said Lynn, who has both founded and invested in young health care companies.

Here's a look at three Bay Area firms started by entrepreneurs whose personal crises served as a springboard to invention:

[diabetes content omitted]


Asthma dictated life for Rajiv Parikh as a boy. He vividly recalls the wheezing, the inhalers and an ill-fated vacation to India at age 10 spent riding on his father's shoulders because he couldn't catch his breath in the pollution and heat.

Parikh eventually outgrew the condition. Today, along with his wife, Bhairavi, he's developing a breath analysis device to enable asthmatics to monitor their airway inflammation so they can take the appropriate medicine and ward off a full-blown asthma attack.

It's the first start-up company for Parikh and Bhairavi, who founded Aperon Biosystems two years ago. While they lack prior experience bringing a business online, they both have credentials -- Rajiv earned an MBA from Harvard University, while Bhairavi received a doctorate in biomedical engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in

In early 2001, Rajiv had his sights set on founding a wireless company. Bhairavi had a job doing research and development for Natus Medical, a San Carlos maker of products to detect common disorders in newborns. One device under development there screened babies for
jaundice by analyzing the infant's breath.

Bhairavi had done related research involving gas analysis while working on her doctoral thesis. She saw potential for using that technology to detect lung inflammation experienced by asthmatics. So, in 2001, the couple licensed the gas analysis technology from its
inventors -- two UCLA physicians -- and founded Aperon.

``She had worked on this back in her days as a Ph.D., and I had the personal experience'' with asthma, Rajiv said. ``I don't know if it was fate or faith, but it worked very well together.''

The couple set up a small shop in Santa Clara and began lab experiments, bankrolled with $100,000 from the couple's savings, plus $200,000 loaned by family and friends.

One venture capital firm turned down Aperon's funding request. But representatives there put the Parikhs in touch with John Kaiser, a retired executive who had also headed a Sunnyvale start-up. Kaiser became Aperon's CEO late last year.

In May, the company received $4.6 million from two venture funds. So far, the money has been used for a larger office in Palo Alto, to hire staff and to develop a prototype device.

``The intent today is to build a great company that helps lots of people,'' Rajiv Parikh said.

Unbeknowst to me, there was some discussion about this article on a medical info site. Check this out with my response many years later. It's cool because it's a way to catch history online and then reach a current state quickly.

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