Monday, January 2, 2017

Mason grads raise $1.2 million for new medical tool

Former students create device to minimize invasive surgery
Juliana Discher | Staff Writer
By senior year, most students are preoccupied with college applications and the notorious ‘senioritis’, not beginning their own company.
Three Mason graduates formulated their own medical company during this time. Class of 2013 graduate Peeyush Shrivastava and class of 2014 graduates Manny Setegn and Vineet Erasala are co-founders of Genetesis. This three–year–old company has built a tool, known as CardioFlux, that allows doctors to see the electrical circuitry of a beating heart. Recently, Genetesis raised $1.2 million in seed money during its first round of financing, led by billionaire investor Mark Cuban and CincyTech.
Shrivastava said the CardioFlux medical tool works by measuring electrical fields from the heart.
“The medical device images the electrical currents of the heart,” Shrivastava said. “It does so by measuring the electric field emitting off the body. Those magnetic fields are generated by electricity moving inside of the heart. It’s cool because the medical fields are unperturbed by the lungs and conductive tissues. It’s a pure signal and we leveraged that fact.”
The trio hatched a plan for the company at a barbeque, Erasala said.
“We met up one day in the summer at a friend’s barbeque and were talking about the healthcare space,” Erasala said. “We all identified that there was a huge deficiency in tracking and mapping the electrical properties of the heart. At the time, the only way for physicians to do that was very invasive. Doctors would have to use some type of catheter or some sort of injection, but there was no way to do it non-invasively and efficiently.”
After conducting labs, contacting those in the research field, and reading up about measuring electrical currents, the boys decided to build a product to correct this issue and were eventually able to create a prototype.
“It was a lot of learning in the beginning and understanding how the scientific field worked and how we could adapt the science to a commercial clinical product,” Erasala said. “The technology had to be user–friendly and work well for the patient. We were able to attract the right kind of talent, and to feel out a minimal viable core functionality of the software. Then we were able to get to a point financially where we could attract people who were as passionate about the cause as we were.”
The trio competed in business competitions to prepare them for the enterprise sphere. Shrivastava said participating in 43 North helped them launch their company.
“43 North is the world’s largest business idea competition and is located in Buffalo, New York,” Shrivastava said. “That’s what pushed us up. We participated in 2015 and we won the People’s Choice Award and a $250,000 award. As a team, we moved to Buffalo and worked out of there for a year. The ability to work full time on Genetesis got us ready to present ourselves to partners and investors.”
Starting a company in high school taught Erasala to follow his dreams.
“It showed me a lot about what it means to be self–taught and how to pursue something if you’re really passionate about it,” Erasala said. “Being an entrepreneur is about being able to learn on the fly and learn very quickly. It’s definitely taught me a lot more than school has in terms of how the business entrepreneurial world works.”
Setegn said the key to having a business start-up succeed is to not have a back-up plan.
“I feel like the majority of companies that fail happen when everyone has a backup plan, saying ‘I can just fall back on this and I will be fine,’” Setegn said. “It’s like a subliminal thing–you are more inclined to put all your time and effort into making your business work if you have to make it work.”
Erasala said he sees Genetesis helping to expand the concept of non-invasive medical imaging to different parts of the body like the brain and organs.
“There are a lot of different uses for this technology,” Erasala said. “We wanted to build platform technology. I think it’s something that can be impactful because this means for the first time you are able to track the underlying physiology, the cellular activity, in a completely non-invasive way that has never been done before.”