BY APRIL STREETER
Founded by CEO Andrew Barofsky, 43, and serial biomedical entrepreneur Dr. Ken Gregory, 59, in 2009, RevMedx is gearing up for a busy fifth year.
BY APRIL STREETER | PHOTOS BY CARL KIILSGAARD
There is a scene in the 2001 movie Black Hawk Down illustrating a problem that needlessly kills during war. An Army corporal takes a bullet deep in his femoral artery, and frantic medics can’t staunch bleeding from the retracted artery in time to save him. That scene, depicting the real-life Ranger James “Jamie” E. Smith’s fight for life during the battle of Mogadishu in 1993, is part of the impetus for the U.S. military’s funding for non-compressible hemorrhage research: Up to 25% of battlefield casualties can die by bleeding out. It’s the problem RevMedx is helping to solve.
With offices in an indistinct row of warehouses on Southwest Canyon Road in Wilsonville, RevMedx is a company of just nine employees, yet with a big mission: to create life-saving tools for trauma medics, who are the first responders when medical care is urgent on battlefields, at accident scenes and during disasters.
Founded by CEO Andrew Barofsky, 43, and serial biomedical entrepreneur Dr. Ken Gregory, 59, in 2009, RevMedx is gearing up for a busy fifth year: Its award-garnering device XStat, an oversize syringe stuffed with tiny pill-shaped sponges designed to stop life-threatening bleeding on hard-to-get-to wounds, just received FDA approval and should ship later this year.
“RevMedx has been involved in hemorrhage-control research with the Department of Defense for a number of years,” Barofsky notes. “The U.S. military’s Special Operations Command came to Ken; they had some money set aside to work on noncompressible hemorrhage, where you have a site of bleeding deep in the body and it is hard to use traditional means to stop it.”
Barofsky, a University of Oregon graduate, had worked with RevMedx co-founder Gregory earlier at the Oregon Medical Laser Center, and later with him also formed the Oregon Biomedical Engineering Institute to bootstrap medical innovation companies. With an earlier company, HemCon, Gregory had created an innovative wound dressing that contained a special clotting agent called chitosan, made from shrimp shells, to halt bleeding more quickly. HemCon went bankrupt, however, after losing a patent-infringement suit around chitosan to another company.
With the DOD’s $5 million in seed money, RevMedx plunged into researching hemorrhage control of noncompressible wounds, which generally occur deep in the torso. The military, Barfosky says, had envisioned some kind of foam in a can — like the Fix-A-Flat canisters that aid drivers — that could be sprayed into the body and expand to mimic compression and would stop bleeding.
RevMedx didn’t get far with the foam idea. In fact, the company was a bit stumped until Gregory, after a trip to a Williams-Sonoma kitchen store, recommended the group look at expandable sponges that pop open when exposed to moisture.
“We started working with a group of student engineers at Harvey Mudd College, making the sponges even smaller and biocompatible,” says Barofsky, “and frankly, that was the proverbial light bulb. The applicator we came up with to inject the sponges into noncompressible wounds worked fantastically well.”
Looking like a giant syringe, XStat’s applicator holds 92 tiny cellulose sponges treated with the chitosan-based clotting agent; each sponge is also embedded with a tiny string to show up on x-ray. XStat is pressed directly into a wound, and once the plunger is engaged, the sponges immediately expand, creating their own internal compression.
Sure from internal testing that XStat was viable, RevMedx worked with the FDA to expedite fast-track approval.