UT funds development of synthetic blood vessels

Andrew Kirsop

UT recently granted $150,000 to San Antonio-based medical technology startup Cardiovate.

The company will use funding from the UT Horizon Fund, an investment fund aimed at supporting UT-related startups, to further develop its product before it hits the market. 

Cardiovate’s patented technology, the NeoVessel, helps treat vascular disease, or the narrowing or blocking of blood vessels. The NeoVessel, a synthetic tube, will be used in general below-the-knee surgical applications and in repairing blood vessels for patients with peripheral artery disease.

The NeoVessel speeds up the healing process, helps the body create new vascular tissues and absorbs into the body after use. The unique fiber structure of the tube allows human cells to grow over it and new tissue to form. Once this occurs, the fiber slowly dissolves into the body.

The startup, which was formed in 2012 by UTSA researchers, still faces many obstacles as the company continues to develop and market their product, according to Kristie Loescher, UT senior lecturer in management.

“[The] really big challenge is building the business acumen along with the scientific and technical acumen,” Loescher said.

Cardiovate’s team includes members with both business and medical backgrounds.

Loescher said a business like Cardiovate has the advantage of adaptability, which allows it to respond to changes more quickly.

“It’s like having a motorboat as opposed to the Titanic,” Loescher said. “I can hire more people, I can change my skill mix, I can go in a different direction, I can make those changes and adjustments easily. Big companies can’t.”

Loescher said startups can utilize this advantage to be successful in markets dominated by “the big guys,” because large companies aren’t as good at managing creative people as startups. 

“What’s happening is small startups will have a new idea or product and develop it as a small company, and then the big corporations will come in and buy them,” Loescher said. 

Loescher said this trend is not uncommon these days, especially in the technology and pharmaceutical fields. Startups are more vulnerable to competition than larger, more diverse companies. They need protection from imitators and competitors. Cardiovate achieved this by patenting the NeoVessel, she said.

Cardiovate CEO Mark Standeford told UT System News how important UT’s endorsement is for attracting additional investors.

“The fund not only brings the financial support to accomplish early-stage milestones, but it’s also a great partner to help us acquire additional financial support in the future,” Standeford said. 

Business junior Evan Garza said he can see how UT’s financial support will be helpful for Cardiovate.

“Having the UT brand on their company is like a magnet that will pull lots of other investors to their company,” Garza said.

He said that although UT has enough money to invest in nearly anything, Cardiovate was a good choice, especially considering the company is in the product development stage.

“$150,000 doesn’t seem like a whole lot of money, but it’s definitely going to go far for Cardiovate, especially now near the end of their testing,” he said. “It will definitely get them to the next level.”

Garza said supporting new medical technologies that will help save lives is important for anyone who is in a position to invest. 

“It’s good that [Cardiovate] is getting funding like this, because you never know who it affects in life, and you never know if and when something like this is going to pop up in your family,” Garza said.