Devon Park: $7M for 'virtual' amputation fighter

Devon Park Bioventures, of Wayne, has invested $7 million in Vascular Magnetics Inc., a start-up firm based at the University City Science Center, which is building a system for fighting peripheral artery disease, a condition that leads to leg amputations for aging diabetics and smokers. 

The money will go to develop a prototype magnetic catheter and drug delivery system that will help patients get artery-clearing medication when and where they need it, chief operating officer Richard S. Woodward PhD told me.

Woodward co-founded the company with Dr. Robert J. Levy, a padiatric cardiologist who heads the heart research lab at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. The two met in 2010 at a program sponsored by the University City Science Center to cook up ways to commercialize inventions by professors at Penn, Drexel, CHoP and nearby schools. Levy's lab "proved this works" through animal studies writen up in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Woodward said.

Next was to develop the product for commercial sale. "I came up with the name, Dr. Levy came up with the logo," Woodward said.

Devon Park general partners Christopher Moller PhD, a Penn-educated immunologist and investor at TL Ventures, and Mark Ostro PhD, founder of Liposome Co. and a former aide to billionaire investor Kenneth Dart, will join the Vascular Magnetics board alongside Woodward and board chairman Georges Gemayel PhD.

The Devon Park funding won't be used for a massive lab or sales force. "We'd get crushed like a bug," Woodward said. Instead, "our plan is to run mostly in the virtual mode," and eventually attract investment from Berwyn-based Covidien (formerly Tyco Medical), New Brunswick-based Johnson & Johnosn's Cordis division, Abbott Laboratories' Vascular unit, Medtronic, or one of the European heart-treatment companies. 

Woodward doesn't even have to come into his West Philly office much. "I'm mostly working in my basement office in South Jersey," he told me. "It's a lot easier ot go idown there at 8 a.m. and come up at 6 and have my wife make my lunch." That's discipline.