While most of ultrasound products on the market today use heat to destroy unwanted tissue, Dr. Cain and his colleagues took an alternative approach in using cavitation, or, the production of tiny energetic bubbles to create a surgical scalpel that liquefies tissues without heat. “The conventional wisdom was that cavitation should be avoided,” Cain says, “but no one could tell me why. So I decided to study it as a possible mechanism for non-invasive surgery.” Dr. Cain, with support from an outstanding team of U of M scientists (Drs. Fowlkes, Hall and Xu), and long-term funding from the National Institutes of Health, developed Histotripsy, a non-invasive form of therapeutic ultrasound that employs cavitation rather than heat to ablate tissues and uses ultrasound imaging to monitor the treatment in real time.
In collaboration with Dr. William Roberts of the U of M Department of Urology, Dr. Cain also obtained funding from the Coulter Foundation to develop Histotripsy as a method to treat BPH. With the support from the University’s Technology Transfer Office and other University resources the science attracted the attention of serial entrepreneur, Tom Davison, Ph.D. who was the co-founder of UltraCision and co-inventor of the Harmonic Scalpel and Shears, the most successful commercial device that employs therapeutic ultrasound technology (UltraCision and the Harmonic line were acquired by Ethicon EndoSurgery – J&J). “I was most impressed with the solid scientific foundation and broad platform potential to create a significant company based on Dr. Cain’s Histotripsy technology,” noted Davison. Dr. Davison was joined by Jim Bertolina, Ph.D. and Chris Gibbons to round out the founding management team. Ms. Gibbons was the Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) at Venture Investors when she met Dr. Bertolina, who furthered her interest in HistoSonics. Ms. Gibbons explained, “The EIR program at Venture Investors was partially sponsored by the Michigan Venture Capital Association with the objective to help stimulate the Michigan economy by identifying venture investment opportunities where the EIR could become a part of the executive management team. I was drawn to the outstanding platform technology and large market opportunity at HistoSonics and I am delighted to be joining such an outstanding management and scientific team.”
“We think HistoSonics’ novel non-invasive ultrasound procedure has the potential to be a huge game-changer in treating BPH now and many other tumors in the future. They’ve assembled a great team to launch this product, and we’ve assembled a great syndicate of venture capital firms to fund and guide the Company to success,” stated Jim Adox, Managing Director and head of the Ann Arbor office for Venture Investors.