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2009 Iowa Venture Forum


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Only the top 12 applicants were given the opportunity to present in an effort to earn investors’ dollars at the 2009 Iowa Venture Forum on Oct. 7. Here are three companies whose innovative ideas could lead to success in the future.

Company: Visual Medical Solutions LLC
Founded: 2007
CEO: Curt Carlson
Web site: www.bodyviz.com
Phone: (877) 296-4111

Visual Medical Solutions LLC is rising fast. The Ames-based company not only received the Prometheus Award as the start-up company of the year from the Technology Association of Iowa, but it also won a first-place prize of $25,000 for its business plan at the John Pappajohn Iowa Business Competition last week.

What’s the hubbub about? The company developed software called BodyViz that can provide three-dimensional full-color visualizations of MRI and CT scans that can drastically improve the efficiency and accuracy of surgical planning.

Currently when surgeons are planning an operation – removing a piece of the liver, for example – they will take an MRI of the liver and try to make a plan for what piece to remove based on the two-dimensional, black-and-white and often hard-to-interpret image. In other words, the surgeons don’t know exactly what they will find until they cut into the patient. And that’s not a good time to find out that the MRI wasn’t completely accurate.

Using the BodyViz software, a to-scale color version of the liver can be created. Then using BodyViz’s virtual reality system, surgeons can actually do a fly-through using virtual reality and a controller from Microsoft Corp.’s Xbox gaming system, and can practice the surgery before they ever make a real cut. That makes BodyViz an excellent tool for planning surgeries and testing different approaches.

The program, which has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is already being sold by the company across the country and is being used at The Methodist Hospital in Houston. Within 24 hours of a TV report airing in Houston showing the technology, the hospital had received 30 new patient calls.

Visual Medical Solutions’ different virtual reality systems were developed in conjunction with Jim Oliver, director of Iowa State University’s Virtual Reality Application Center, who is now vice president of operations for the company. The systems cost upwards of $150,000 for a full room, about $70,000 for a system that uses 3-D goggles and a flat-screen TV, and as low as $5,000 for a PC version. The company feels the low-cost version could be an excellent tool to market to high schools.

Company: J&J Solutions Inc.
Founded: February 2008
CEO: Mark Capriani
Co-founders: John Slump and Jared Garfield
Phone: (319) 335-2547

J&J Solutions Inc.’s founders, John Slump and Jared Garfield, were startled when they saw the research report stating that millions of health-care workers are exposed to dangerous chemotherapy drugs by spills, accidental puncture wounds and vapor leakages when administering treatment to cancer patients. Realizing the need for improved safety, the two developed a device that enables safe, effective, efficient and affordable drug delivery.

The device is a small disposable piece that snaps onto industry-standard vials and syringes, creating a vacuum inside the vial and preventing vapor leakage when a pharmacist or nurse extracts from a vial to the syringe and injects the contents into an IV bag.

CEO Mark Capriani, who has overseen the launch of two previous medical devices, said that the market currently spends $400 million on the standard devices and that figure will grow as hospitals and oncology clinics try to reduce environmental risks for their caregivers. The potential U.S. market for hazardous drug handling devices, which is in excess of $1 billion, is expected to increase to $2.5 billion in five years.

The company plans to enter the market in the second quarter of 2010, and has garnered interest from leading cancer treatment centers such as the Cleveland Clinic to be beta sites for its product.

Company: Suntava LLC
Founded: 2007
CEO: Bill Petrich
Web Site: www.suntava.com
Phone: (651) 335-2547

Sweet corn, yellow corn, popcorn … purple corn?

Suntava LLC’s founders developed a proprietary, natural purple corn, which through the company’s processing technology provides natural red dyes and antioxidants that are extracted from the plant while leaving the most widely utilized ingredients of the plant intact.

Recent research is fueling concern over artificial additives in food, drugs and cosmetics, which in turn is leading to a growing number of consumers who want natural ingredients, Suntava CEO Bill Petrich said. Some studies even suggest that some synthetic red and yellow dyes, such as red dye 40, are causing hyperactivity in children.

Suntava’s Sayela Colorants, which are extracted from the purple corn, are a natural alternative to the artificial additives and can be used in products including soft drinks, tortilla chips and cereals.

Since the extraction process leaves the starches, proteins and oils of the kernel intact, the corn has increased value. Suntava claims the purple corn is capable of delivering at least 30 times more revenue per acre than yellow corn hybrids. The company said it hasn’t had any problems finding growers, and pays them a slight premium to grow purple instead of yellow corn.

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