State Resources Support Serial Entrepreneur David Fischell’s Mission to Create Life-Saving Medical Devices
TRENTON (July 30, 2015) – The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) continues its series highlighting how entrepreneurs and investors are helping to build New Jersey’s technology ecosystem.
Serial entrepreneur Dr. David Fischell, of Fair Haven, has founded and led more than a dozen medical device companies to success in the last 20 years. To Fischell, developing medical devices is a family affair. David, along with his father Dr. Robert Fischell, a physicist, and his brother Dr. Tim Fischell, a cardiologist, started New Providence-based Svelte Medical Systems in 2007. The company produces a cost-effective expandable coronary stent system featuring the smallest diameter in the industry. This stent has led to a new standard of care in treating the buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries feeding blood to the heart, known as atherosclerosis. Svelte's legacy follows the Fischells' work on stent design begun in late 1993, that ultimately led to David's design of the Cordis CypherTM stent, the world's first drug eluting stent sold by Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and implanted in more than five million patients.
David Fischell holds 140 issued US patents, and in total, the Fischell family has more than 250 patents to its name. Their medical device inventions run the gamut from implantable devices that detect and treat epileptic seizures to catheters used to cure high blood pressure.
“Serial entrepreneurs like Dr. Fischell enjoy the challenge of identifying unmet needs and finding ways to use technology to address those challenges,” EDA CEO Melissa Orsen said. “This fosters a spirit of innovation that fuels New Jersey’s technology ecosystem by creating jobs, and reinforcing the State’s image as a place for technology businesses to grow and thrive.”
Fischell currently serves as the CEO of Angel Medical Systems, a medical device company in Shrewsbury that he founded with his father and brother, in 2001. Angel Medical is seeking Food and Drug Administration approval for its implantable GuardianTM System, designed to detect and alert patients to the onset of a heart attack, allowing them to seek immediate help.
Both Svelte Medical Systems and Angel Medical Systems have taken advantage of State resources including the Technology Business Tax Certificate Transfer (NOL) Program. Svelte Medical Systems also raised $4.8 million last year from David and Robert Fischell and other investors who were able to benefit from the State’s Angel Investor Tax Credit Program.
After completing a PhD in Applied Physics at Cornell University in 1979, Fischell moved to New Jersey and took a job at Bell Laboratories' largest facility in Holmdel, where he spent his time performing and then directing research and development projects. He left Bell Laboratories in 1991 to focus on creating medical devices.
Like many New Jersey entrepreneurs, Fischell is active in several organizations that encourage collaboration within the entrepreneurial community. He is a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, headquartered in Piscataway, whose core mission is to foster innovation and excellence. He’s also a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering and a Trustee of Cornell University, his alma mater.
@NJEDATech spoke with Fischell about his experience growing companies in New Jersey:
What attracted you to New Jersey as the place to grow your medical device companies?
There are two key reasons why Svelte and Angel Medical are located in New Jersey instead of the more dense centers of medical device manufacturing such as Minneapolis or the Bay area in California. First is the wonderful environment for life and raising a family that my wife Sarah, a former Bell Labs engineer and department head, and I found in Monmouth County. Bell got us here, but the great schools, proximity to New York City and coastal environment have kept us here.
The second, and just as important, reason is the availability of the right talent for staffing our companies. Svelte has many former J&J employees, as New Jersey had been a center for stent development in the 1990s. The availability of lots of talent with drug development and manufacturing capability was also helpful as Svelte's top-of-the-line product is a drug eluting stent that prevents regrowth of tissue inside of the stent (called “restenosis”). For Angel Medical, whose product is primarily software, the leadership and much of the technical staff were also ex-Bell Labs employees. While it might seem strange to be using telecommunications engineers to develop medical technology, it should be remembered that among other things, Bell Labs pioneered the process of designing software that never breaks or crashes.
You’ve been quite successful in leveraging State resources to help grow your company. Can you please describe how these companies benefited from the Angel Tax Credit and the NOL program?
It is perhaps the NOL program that has been the most beneficial to both Svelte and Angel Medical, bringing in millions of dollars over a ten-year period that is non-dilutive to shareholders. It has really helped during recent years as the venture capital industry has moved away from funding medical device ventures because of the time and cost for return on investment. As a result, angel investments have become a much more important part of funding, with programs like the Angel Tax Credit being helpful in motivating such investment.
What piece of advice do you have for budding entrepreneurs just starting out?
It is all about the right starting team. Your initial group needs to be able to go from work as individual contributors when you begin, to managers of a group or department as the venture grows. Such were the four people that formed, with me, the starting team at Angel Medical. My starting team of Jonathan Harwood, Steve Johnson, Dave Keenan and Rich Bantel were each critical to our success. All having roots from Bell Labs, they eventually became Chief Technology Officer, Vice President of Research Development, Vice President – Clinical and Regulatory, and Director of Software Development as the company grew.
For more information about resources available to support New Jersey’s technology industry, visit https://www.njeda.com/tls and follow @NJEDATech on Twitter and LinkedIn.