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June 30, 2020 | Tom Ballard

Family history, Vanderbilt University experience propel Tim Boire of VenoStent

One might say that Tim Boire, President and Chief Executive Officer at VenoStent Inc., was launched on his technically-focused entrepreneurial journey at least in part by his family history, something that really began to accelerate while he was a student at Vanderbilt University and involved in a variety of opportunities.

“I come from a family on engineers . . . my dad and my two older brothers,” the New Hampshire native told us during a recent interview. As such, it was logical to assume that he would follow in the family tradition, and he did, earning both his M.S. and PhD in biomedical engineering at Vanderbilt.

Along with what Boire calls “a passion to help people,” he also gained valuable experience during his grad school career by working with a nationally-known vascular surgeon in 2013, participating in the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps program in 2014, and serving as President of Life Science Tennessee’s Academic Alliance in 2015-16.

Boire says his interests at the start of the I-Corps program were focused on coronary artery bypass grafting, but he learned during the customer discovery process that there was a “far more acute clinical need with dialysis patients.” Then, after participating in the well-respected Rice Business Plan Competition in 2016, he says, “I realized we had a good team and company.”

That conclusion resulted in the founding of VenoStent later that year.

In those early years after launching the start-up, Boire says his focus was primarily on patients going through hemodialysis utilizing grafts that “basically arterialize the vein” as the dialysis patient’s “bridge to a transplant.” The solution that he had in mind is called the SelfWrap. Using shape memory polymer technology and 3D printing, the slowly bioresorbable technology provides a self-closing, durable, flexible, mechanical support system that is customizable at the point of surgery. This means surgeons can add the wrap during the access surgery procedure with next-to-no increase in time.

Fast forward to today, and VenoStent has been awarded a Phase I grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) under the agency’s Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program.

“While VenoStent has focused thus far on reducing hemodialysis failures – a critical, rampant, and unaddressed problem that we are very passionate about – this NIH funding allows us to adapt out technology to potentially treat an even larger patient population starving for more innovative solutions,” he says.

Specifically, the $299,910 in funding will allow Boire to conduct R&D work to improve saphenous vein graft patency in peripheral (PABG) and coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) surgeries, working with collaborators at Houston Methodist Research Institute.

“We’re working to optimize the device design,” he told us from the JLabs @ TMC facility in Houston. At more than 34,000 square feet, it is the largest of the Johnson & Johnson network of 12 JLabs around the world.

“The funding will allow us to conduct a degradation study and complete biocompatibility testing,” Boire adds, explaining that the work involves creating two different grafts in the neck area of rabbits. One involves the VenoStent device; the other does not.

“Over three to four months, we will be able to see how the vein is adapting,” Boire says.

Why is that important?

He explains that bypass grafting is considered by many to be the gold standard for treating severe lesions in patients with peripheral artery or coronary artery disease. The two diseases afflict nearly 30 million people in the U.S., and there are more than one million of these surgeries performed annually.

“About 20 percent of vein grafts in patients that undergo PABG fail within the first year, and 50 percent fail within five years,” Boire says.

VenoStent plans to launch its first clinical trials outside the U.S. later this year with domestic trials expected to begin in 2022. If everything goes as planned, Boire hopes to have a U.S. Food and Drug Administration-cleared device by 2023 or 2024.

While he is working from Houston for now, he says corporate headquarters for VenoStent remains in Nashville. “I wanted to help build the local ecosystem but staying in Tennessee was a challenge due to funding,” Boire explained. “I miss Tennessee but hope to move back in four or five years.”

He also had nothing but praise for his involvement with Life Science Tennessee, both as a student and as a participant in the association’s Mentor Network funded in part by Launch Tennessee. “It was really eye-opening to see how it works . . . how a local economy could be built by bringing people together across their different silos,” Boire added.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: After the interview and subsequent finalization of the article with Boire, word came this week that VenoStent will participate in one of the two inaugural accelerators hosted by the Sync Space Entrepreneur Center in Kingsport {see announcement article here}. It is the newest member of the Launch Tennessee Network.)

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