By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates. P.C.
Chad Seaver’s desire to find a better treatment for patients with hydrocephalus has been evolving since at least 2010, but he has kicked it into high gear in the last few months.
“I took the leap at the end of May,” he told teknovation.biz in a recent interview. The leap was resigning from his job with global powerhouse Siemens to devote his full attention to the new Knoxville-based start-up named Arkis BioSciences. Seaver is the Chief Executive Officer.
The “leap” became a reality after Arkis secured seed funding in March, some six months after the fund raising effort began.
Fortunately for Seaver, he is not alone in the endeavor. He has two colleagues – James Killeffer, a local Neurosurgeon, and Chris Arnott, a former Patent Examiner and colleague who has remained at Siemens. Killeffer is Chief Medical Officer, while Arnott is Chief Technology Officer. Seaver, however, is Arkis’ only full-time employee.
“I developed a big passion for medical devices after seeing patients being treated,” he explained. That interest resulted in the founding of Arkis.
Hydrocephalus is a condition characterized by an excessive accumulation of fluid in the brain. The disease may be congenital or acquired, and the current treatment most often involves surgically inserting a shunt system.
Seaver describes today’s treatment approach as “antiquated” and says his goal is to “bring treatment into the 21st century.” The domestic market alone involves approximately 80,000 patients annually, costing the U.S. an estimated $3 billion with global estimates topping $5 billion per year.
Armed with his goal, Seaver approached Killeffer in 2010 with some new ideas on treating hydrocephalus.
“He became very excited about the ideas,” Seaver said. “They would revolutionize the treatment.”
Understandably, Seaver is reluctant to divulge too much information at this stage about the start-up’s technology. He did say that Arkis submitted its initial patent application in 2011 and filed three more in 2012.
In the near-term, Seaver says the company has four products in development – two that are surgical tools and two that are medical implants. The company’s goal is to have the surgical products in the market around 2015 to 2016 and the implantables thereafter.
“Three are 510K eligible,” he says, referring to the faster process for U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval.
“We have prototypes for the first two surgical tools,” he adds.
Over the long-term, Seaver says Arkis will develop a “portfolio to treat hydrocephalus and related diseases.”
The Kingsport native and graduate of the University of Tennessee’s Knoxville campus told us he started his career “excited about engineering,” but admitted that he “bounced around a bit after graduation from college.”
Seaver interned at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and also worked there full-time for two and one-half years following his college days. He worked for a year at Remotec, joined DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee for two years, and even had his own consulting firm – North American Technical – before he landed at CTI in April 2000.
“I enjoyed working for Ron and Terry,” he said in reference to CTI’s co-founders Ron Nutt and Terry Douglass. “I learned a lot. They were very passionate about medical imaging and improving patient outcomes.”
Leaving Siemens (formerly CTI) was difficult. “It has been a great career” Seaver said, adding, “I love business and making deals and I’m excited to continue that with Arkis.”