How OSF Ventures helped take my idea from concept to development

If you would’ve told me five years ago my idea for a medical device would be sold for $50 million, I never would’ve believed it. But in July of 2019, that’s exactly what my team and I were in the process of doing, due in large part to continued support from OSF HealthCare.

As a long-time interventional radiologist in Peoria, I wanted to find ways of improving treatment for patients suffering from severe urinary tract and bile duct obstructions usually caused by cancer, scar tissue and stones. Individuals traditionally had to undergo at least two invasive procedures using two different devices to treat each of the blockages.

In 2014, I created the company, BrightWater Medical, and designed the ConvertX® Stent System to eliminate the need for a second surgery. All I needed was the funding, vetting and physician feedback to further develop this innovative technology, gain U.S. and European approvals and eventually commercialize this concept.

Investment and validation spurs growth

Interested in connecting with OSF Ventures?

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In 2016, OSF Ventures took a chance on this local physician and his company in more ways than one. The corporate investment arm of OSF HealthCare led a $5.2 million dollar investment round in our business because of our device’s potential to improve patient experience and outcomes.

The hospital system also supported our work by thoroughly vetting the technology, estimating the economic impact of the solution and collecting feedback from both interventional radiologists and urologists who would likely use our first product, the ConvertX® Nephroureteral Stent System. It was this internal validation that helped us continually advance the device, attract more interest and funding from other investors and grow our company from an embryo to adult-sized corporation.

“The ConvertX® is an innovative solution that eclipses technology stagnant since the 1970s,” said Stan Lynall, vice president of Ventures Investments for OSF. “Our team saw the investment as a win-win because it was a low-cost treatment that improved the patient experience while also freeing up surgery suites for other critical procedures.”

As we worked toward commercializing our first product, the ConvertX® Nephroureteral Stent System was successfully implanted in a patient for the first time in 2017 at OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria. As that was taking place, BrightWater was in the middle of seeking FDA approval for a second device that mirrors the capability of the original but targets the biliary system.

Both products have received FDA approval. We most recently announced the sale of our company to Utah-based Merit Medical Systems, Inc., a leading manufacturer, and marketer of proprietary disposable devices used in interventional, diagnostic and therapeutic procedures.

Peoria: a haven for medical startups

Developing, growing and scaling any medical device is a tough job. We had a lot of false starts. We got beat up. There were even times when we wondered whether our little company would make it. However, having the backing of a medical institution such as OSF HealthCare and a team with a lot of grit paved the way for our success.

As more startup companies with ideas to improve health care read my story, I predict many will seek investment or partnership opportunities with OSF. Not only does the health care system have an innovation center that includes well-known ventures and partnerships programs, it also includes one of the top-three simulation centers in the world and ongoing connections with the University of Illinois System.

This makes Peoria a community poised to become a hub for bio, medical, and pharma technology development. Companies with medical solutions interested in connecting with OSF Ventures can contact the team here.

Last Updated: April 22, 2022

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About Author: Dr. Bob Smouse

Dr. Bob Smouse is a Peoria interventional radiologist and founder of BrightWater Medical, Inc.—a company recently acquired by Utah-based Merit Medical Systems. Dr. Smouse invented the ConvertX® Stent System, a medical device that reduces the need for multiple procedures for patients suffering from severe urinary tract and bile duct obstructions.

Dr. Smouse, who is also a professor of radiology and surgery at the University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria and his company were one of the first startups to be invested in by OSF Ventures, the corporate investment arm of OSF HealthCare. BrightWater is the first company to exit OSF Ventures.

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Categories: Innovation