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VOL. 127 | NO. 101 | Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Memphis-Based MRI Interventions Goes Public

By Aisling Maki

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This week marks a milestone for Memphis-based MRI Interventions Inc., which began trading as a public company Monday, May 21.

The medical device business, whose mission is to create innovative platforms for performing the next generation of minimally invasive surgical procedures for the brain and heart, employs 20 people, including four at its Memphis corporate headquarters at One Commerce Square.

Over-the-counter shares are being traded under symbol MRIC.

The majority of workers are based at the company’s Irvine, Calif., facility, which focuses on research and development and manufacturing and distribution.

“The business has been growing,” said company CEO Kimble Jenkins. “Our products have been doing well. The technology, we believe, is industry changing. We’ve got a nice broad reach with our product now with installations in the U.S. and now moving into Europe. When you look at those growth trends operationally, we decided now is the right time to become a publicly traded company. It gives us an opportunity to tell a broader audience about our company, our products, and what we’re doing in the industry.”

The company, which stemmed from work done at Johns Hopkins University, was founded in 1998 in Baltimore as SurgiVision.

“The company’s scientific founders include guys like Dr. Paul Bottomley, who was one of the principal architects of the clinical MRI scanner,” Jenkins said.

In 2008, the company formally moved its headquarters to Memphis with the help of Jenkins, a lawyer by training who’s been involved in various aspects of growth-stage companies for most of his career.

“I’m a big fan of Memphis,” said Jenkins, who has served as MRI Intervention’s CEO since 2008 but has been involved with the company on a part-time basis since 2003. “I grew up in Memphis, went away to school and came back to Memphis. I think this city is a great environment for growing things, and we’re happy to be here for that reason. It’s a business-friendly environment and it’s one that’s generated a lot of successes over the years for a lot of other companies and we hope it does the same for us.”

In May 2011, the company changed its name to MRI Interventions from SurgiVision to “better reflect the business and what our product does,” Jenkins said.

MRI Interventions’ ClearPoint systems are commercially available, and the company said the products are being installed at a growing number of hospitals, including leading neurosurgical centers across the country.

ClearPoint sites currently include UCSF Medical Center; Emory Healthcare; Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; the National Institutes of Health; and University of Pittsburg Medical Center.

ClearPoint Neuro Intervention System in March was featured on the cover of the “Journal of Operative Neurosurgery,” a peer-reviewed journal for neurosurgeons.

Neurosurgeons are using the system as a minimally invasive neurosurgical platform in their treatment of patients suffering from a range of neurological diseases, including Parkinson’s disease, dystonia, brain tumors, epilepsy and Tourette’s syndrome.

“The key to our ClearPoint platform is that we enable neurosurgeons to see inside the brain in real-time during minimally invasive brain surgeries,” Jenkins said. “This is a functionality that’s not been available prior to our ClearPoint system.”

MRI Interventions is also making progress internationally. Late last year, the company completed its first installation in Europe and expects to open additional ClearPoint sites on the continent over the coming quarters.

Jenkins said he also anticipates the company will expand into emerging markets in the coming years.

“We’ve gotten inbound interest from a number of different countries about the product … if they’re going to build a new hospital they want it to have the newest capabilities, so we think our product offerings fit well,” he said.

MRI Interventions also has a cardiac product called ClearTrace currently in development, in partnership with Siemens Healthcare.

Jenkins said it’s one of three current corporate partnerships for MRI Interventions, which has partnered with Brainlab for its ClearPoint system, and with Boston Scientific to incorporate its MRI-safety technologies into that company’s implantable leads for cardiac and neurological applications.

“There are more than 2.2 million late-stage neuro-patients in the United States who can benefit from minimally invasive neuro-therapies,” Jenkins said. “Right now, the alternatives available for those patients are very limited. We think we can dramatically improve the therapy options for that large patient population by making our product more widely available. It’s that need that’s driving our business, and we expect it to drive very meaningful growth in our business for the future.”

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