It’s been a whirlwind few months for medical device maker Acessa Health.
In June, the company announced it had acquired a noninvasive treatment for uterine fibroids from a California medical device company.
At the same time, the company said it had secured $30 million in Series A financing to expand its product portfolio, develop new technology and expand sales and marketing.
Meanwhile, Acessa moved from Northern California to Austin, which now serves as its global headquarters.
“Austin is the right place for us,” said Kim Bridges Rodriguez, CEO of Acessa Health. “A lot of small medtech companies are starting to emerge,and I believe this is one of the next big medtech opportunity spots. You have it in Northern California, in Minnesota, it’s starting to emerge in Colorado. I believe Austin will be on that list.”
Acessa (pronounced uh-sess-a) purchased the FDA-approved device from Halt Medical, a Brentwood-based company that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in April.
"The company had poor management, but such a great technology that already had approval," Rodriguez said. "I got excited because it was a women's health company and a technology I thought was really going to help women and change the standard of care."
Uterine fibroids are common, and are often small and cause no problems. But between 20 percent and 40 percent of women age 35 or older have uterine fibroids of a significant size, according to Baylor Scott and White Health.
For those with chronic symptoms including pelvic pain and heavy, prolonged menstrual periods, drug therapy is the first step in treatment. When that doesn't work, the next step is a surgical procedure called myomectomy to remove the fibroids, and if that fails, a hysterectomy.
"Both are major surgeries," Rodriguez said. "What we're appealing to is women who want to keep their uterus, want to get back to work quickly and don't have time for a major procedure. We can offer a minimally invasive procedure that works. We're on a mission to save the uterus."
Acessa uses a laparoscopic instrument to deliver radiofrequency energy to fibroids, which shrink and are reabsorbed by surrounding tissue following the procedure. It's an outpatient procedure, and patients are typically back to work and normal activity in three to five days, compared to four to six weeks for traditional procedures, Rodriguez said.
Among the doctors using Acessa is Devin Garza, who began using the device to remove fibroids a year ago and currently performs several procedures a month.
"The first time I saw the way their procedure was done, it made sense and the technology made sense," said Garza, an OB-GYN at St. David's North Austin Medical Center. "The advantages are that the technology is going to require fewer incisions, there's a quicker recovery, and the biggest advantage, it offers an additional alternative to hysterectomies.”
For Rodriguez, the effort to keep the device on the market began in March 2016, when she was named CEO of Halt Medical and charged with turning the company around and finding new financing. But Halt had too much debt and new investors weren't interested, she said.
Halt filed for bankruptcy, and a new company -- Acessa -- was formed.
"We pulled together like-minded investors that helped us buy the assets and save the technology," Rodriguez said. "I shut down the facility in California... and moved it to Austin."
Among the company’s financial backers is S3 Ventures of Austin and Sands Capital of Arlington, Virginia.
“Acessa Health has a strong core team, top-notch clinical academic advisers and a strong technical solution to solve this key issue in women’s health,” said Brian Smith, managing director at S3 Ventures. “S3 is thrilled that Acessa is in Austin and bringing excellent medtech solutions out of Texas for the benefit of all women.
Acessa currently has 10 employees and plans to more than double that over the next year, as it ramps up product development and clinical trial enrollment.