Tuesday, August 6, 2013
Peca Labs: Three Young Entrepreneurs Developing a Heart Valve for Children
Three 20-something Carnegie Mellon University graduates, working in a $500-a-month storefront next door to a tattoo parlor on Etna's main drag, have an idea and a plan for a new kind of pediatric heart valve.
If it works -- and they're convinced it will -- the device could help an estimated 3,200 children born each year with a specific birth defect to avoid undergoing multiple open heart surgeries as they grow up.
Amid bare furnishings, the entrepreneurs often work seven days a week, eating at their desks (one of them occasionally naps on a pullout sofa bed after an all-night work session), while earning what one described as "survival wages."
It may seem an improbable scenario for advancing the complex world of medical devices. But in three short years, the young men -- CEO Doug Bernstein, 23, from Los Angeles; COO Jamie Quinterno, also 23, of New York City; and Arush Kalra, 26, a pediatric urology resident surgeon in New Delhi, India, before enrolling at CMU -- have assembled an impressive army of supporters.
Last month, the tech startup booster Innovation Works committed $250,000 to back their company, Peca Labs, and it has connected them with mentors to help them navigate regulatory and fundraising waters.
Larry Miller, life sciences executive-in-residence at Innovation Works, said the trio's comparative inexperience was of little concern in the organization's decision to invest.
"Their youth is good. We think there's lots of energy and lots of passion," he said.
If there were any hesitation about backing Peca, said Mr. Miller, it was the "relatively small" market the startup was targeting. Developing and marketing a new medical device is usually an expensive proposition, and investors aren't likely to jump in if there's no financial return.
The Peca three -- the name is a shortening of "pediatric cardiovascular" -- have addressed that problem by running a super-lean operation. Their low-rent office space, which amounts to not much more than a couple of work stations and a small conference space in the back, is just one manifestation of that...Read more»
By: Steve Twedt / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette