That was the case for Rebiotix CEO Lee Jones, who had never heard of the disease until her mother fell ill with it several years ago. Lee says she quickly learned how dangerous the disease really is – it’s responsible for more than 29,000 deaths among more than 500,000 cases annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Fortunately, Jones’ mother survived the illness, but the experience was a bit of an “Aha” moment for the medtech veteran, who led Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Inlet Medical to an acquisition by CooperSurgical in 2006. She also held several executive-level jobs at medtech titan Medtronic (NYSE:MDT).
Founded in 2011, Roseville, Minn.-based Rebiotix is a biotech company looking to harness the human microbiome into a treatment for recurrent C. diff., which accounts for about 20% to 30% of all C. diff. patients. The company recently completed enrollment in a Phase II clinical trial for its therapeutic, which harnesses gut microbiota from healthy fecal matter and turns it into a drug therapy (there are no approved drugs for treating recurrent C. diff.).
The company hopes recurrent C. diff. is just the 1st condition addressed by its a pipeline of treatments than can be derived from the microbiome.
When asked how she ended up leading a biotech start up, Jones said simply, “I have a great imagination.”
“When I sold my past company, I was looking for the next thing to do. I was in the medical device arena for a long time and I wasn’t looking forward to doing another medical device. So, I volunteered at the University of Minnesota as a CEO in residence,” she told us.
“I ended up meeting a doctor and a scientist who brought microbial therapies to the University of Minnesota to look at, to see if it could be something that could be patented. I got involved and said, ‘Let me help them with that,’ to see if there was a business opportunity. The more I got into it, the more I realized it was a huge opportunity – and not just for C. diff.”
In this episode of DeviceTalks, MassDevice.com publisher Brian Johnson discusses the power of the human microbiome in combatting disease and differences between running a medtech company and a biotech company:
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