MassDevice Q&A: William Rutan

October 14, 2009 by Brian Johnson

The CEO of Mederi Therapeutics on the challenges of increasing awareness of bowel incontinence and his company's minimally invasive alternative to colostomy surgery.

MassDevice Q&A: Mederi Therapeutics CEO William Rutan

How do you get people to talk to their doctors about something so embarrassing they'll barely admit it to themselves?

That's the challenge facing Greenwich, Conn.-based medical device startup Mederi Therapeutics and the minimally invasive treatment for fecal incontinence it says will eliminate the need for drastic colostomy procedures.

Fecal or bowel incontinence is a condition in which adults lose the ability to control their bowel movements, resulting in occasional leakage of stool or even a complete loss of bowel control, according to the Mayo Clinic. It's an affliction Mederi says is much more common than you think, particularly for women who are both its primary sufferers and the people most likely to keep it a secret.

Mederi's Secca device delivers radiofrequency energy to the anal canal, causing small tissue contractions to restore sphincter function. According to the company, some of that restoration occurs immediately and some over the six to 12 months following the 45-minute, out-patient procedure.

MassDevice recently spoke with Mederi CEO William Rutan, who told us the company is taking a page out of the pharmaceutical industry's book, studying the way companies like Pfizer turned erectile dysfunction into a household word to sell Viagra. One challenge for Mederi is replicating that marketing muscle on a shoe-string budget. A bigger and more immediate challenge, Rutan said, is getting physicians to ask patients if they're suffering from the affliction. If they that proves successful, the 50-year-old CEO says, Mederi might just be onto a tremendous market opportunity.

MassDevice: Tell us about Mederi Therapeutics. What's the back story, and what's the market opportunity for your products?

Will Rutan: We acquired the assets of a company called Curon Medical Inc. [Eds. note: Curon filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2006] and those assets included 80 issued patents. Curon had marketed the products; Secca for the treatment of bowel incontinence and Stretta for acid reflux disease. The two devices do essentially the same thing, they're just constructed differently.

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