WPI's February Venture Forum: Crossing the Pond To Turn Brains Into Bucks

Contact: WPI Venture Forum, +1-508-831-5075

WORCESTER, Mass. - New businesses are springing up across the country in record numbers. Without a doubt, the entrepreneurial spirit is the backbone of American business and industry. Breaking into a field can be difficult, however, as start-ups face issues such as marketing, funding and leadership before they can establish a foothold.

The Feb. 20 meeting of Worcester Polytechnic Institute's Venture Forum will address these challenges, particularly as they apply to fledgling foreign companies entering the American market. David Barone, co-founder and chairman of Sleep HealthCenters, LLC, will talk about companies from "across the pond" and how they can successfully penetrate the U.S. marketplace. The forum takes place in Kinnicutt Lecture Hall, Salisbury Laboratories on the WPI campus, 100 Institute Road, Worcester, Mass. Registration is at 6 p.m. and the meeting at 6:30. Admission is $5 for members and $10 for non-members.

An engineer who has successfully made the transition from the Israeli business world to the United States, Barone will discuss ways aspiring foreign companies, particularly in the life-science sphere, can gain a foothold in this country.

Barone served as design engineer at the Ministry of Defense in Haifa, Israel, before coming to the United States. During the 1980s, he helped start a company focused on the development and marketing of medical devices, including hyperthermia equipment for cancer therapy and a computer-controlled dialysis system. From 1980 to 1987, Barone rose from group leader of research and development at Oranon Teknika Corp. in Oklahoma City, a medical devices and diagnostic company, to director of the department. He assumed senior management positions in research and development, marketing, management, and also served as director of management of pilot manufacturing at Haemonetics Corp. in Braintree, Mass.

As the co-founder and CEO of Coral Therapeutics Inc., Barone managed a 15-fold revenue growth during 1995 and 1996. During his tenure, the company developed the industry's first outsourcing and management of hospital-based donor rooms and hemotherapy clinics. Under his leadership the company also obtained the first FDA approval for multi-site outsourcing of blood collection and processing services.

Most recently, Barone conceived, researched and developed a health-care service company that offers comprehensive diagnostic and treatment centers for people with sleep disorders. Sleep HealthCenters, LLC, with offices in Newton, Bedford and Malden, Mass., and Denver, Col., is based on a leading Israeli business model.

Under this model, a team of specialists, including board-certified experts in pulmonology, neurology, psychology, dentistry, psychiatry and other areas, work together to diagnose and treat patients with obstructive sleep apnea, insomnia, narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome and other disorders. In addition to discussing the transition into the U.S. marketplace, he will discuss his experiences in the Israeli health-care industry.

Venture Forum also will offer a business case presentation by Wendy Coleman, co-founder and president of BioTherapeutic Devices of Stratham, N.H. BioTherapeutic Devices is developing innovative screening devices designed to detect sensory loss as an early indicator of debilitating disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome and other upper extremity cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs). According to Coleman, early detection enables early intervention as well as significant reduction in the number of healthcare dollars spent to treat these illnesses.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, CTDs, especially those concerning repetitive motion injuries to the wrist, are now the fastest-growing category of workers' compensation claims. More than $22 billion is spent each year on their treatment.

BioTherapeutic Devices has developed SensiMouse™, a small, stand-alone vibratory device enclosed in a computer mouse housing and intended to be used at a computer workstation. By using specially designed software, an individual can track the trend of sensory response and store the information in a PC program. If results deviate from a normal baseline, warnings will be issued. The device can be self-administered or used under the guidance of a therapist or an ergonomist. Broad market release for the product is expected in late 2001.

The company is preparing to launch a search for secondary funding for between $3 and $5 million to take its tested prototype through clinical trials, expand marketing efforts and gear up for production. The company's second-stage products include, among others, a device designed to detect diabetic sensory loss, to optimize insulin levels and so deter or eliminate diabetic neuropathy.

Three panelists will offer opinions, suggestions and feedback following the case presentation, including Elaine Caughey, an associate with MPM Capital whose expertise is in the biotechnology field. MPM Capital focuses exclusively on biopharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical technology, bioinformatics and e-health companies.

The second panelist is Charles Burke of Monument Partners, a management consulting firm for biotechnological and non-biotech companies. Burke has been president and general manager for several companies. Guest speaker David Barone rounds out the panel. Questions from the audience will be taken following the experts' comments.

About the WPI Venture Forum

The WPI Venture Forum was created in 1990 to promote the entrepreneurial spirit and to serve those who engage in technology- based entrepreneurial enterprises by providing advice, support and education tailored to meet their needs. The forum fosters entrepreneurship through such activities as monthly programs, a business plan contest, a weekly radio show on News Radio WTAG (Saturdays, 5-7 pm, 580am), and a monthly newsletter.

The Venture Forum, as part of the Collaborative for Entrepreneurship & Innovation in the Department of Management at WPI, serves individuals who are seeking to begin their own technology-based businesses; founders, presidents, and senior managers of start-up or early-stage companies; senior managers of companies that are restarting or making a transition for one mode of operation to another; and employees leaving large companies due to a reduction in force or to start businesses.