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Health care


He co-chaired the neurosurgery department there for 22 years.


Partnering with experts The person leading the


partners program is Dr. Emily White, who joined the founda- tion as director of operations in 2016. Besides her training in general surgery — she’s a U.Va. School of Medicine graduate — White also has experience on the business side, having held leadership roles with several startup companies. The first step was going


to investors already involved in focused ultrasound to test their willingness to continue investing, White says. Then she started asking ultrasound- related startups about their growth plans and what help they need. “Our first phase was to


Dr. Emily White, the foundation’s director of operations, connects startups with investors and industry experts.


role in helping the $5 million deal happen. “I can’t overstate the power of an introduction to an audience who is already familiar with and believes in the potential of focused ultra- sound,” he says. The ultrasound foundation


Blue


would like to see a lot more deals like that one. So, earlier this year it launched a formal effort, called FUS Partners, to make more connections — not just for financing but other initiatives such as collaborative partnerships or academic- research opportunities, all with the goal of advancing the development and adoption of focused ultrasound technology. “The field of focused


ultrasound is at a tipping point, where it’s transitioning from a research and development activity to a commercial activ-


56 NOVEMBER 2018


ity,” says Dr. Neal Kassell, who started the Focused Ultrasound Foundation in 2006 and is its chairman. Focused ultrasound is


a noninvasive therapy using ultrasound waves to generate heat and destroy targeted tissue. It also has potential in drug delivery. Kassell began the foun- dation to speed development of the technology. FUS Partners program is a


logical next step for the founda- tion, Kassell says. “Ten years ago, there were five manufactur- ers in the field. Today, there are about 65,” he says. That’s a good trend, but those companies are relatively small and not making money, he says. “So, the first step that we see is to get these companies to be successful. The next step is to effect some consolidation.” Kassell came to Charlottes-


ville in 1984 as a professor of neurosurgery at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.


go to incumbent investors and say, ‘Can we talk to you about why you decided to invest in this space? And do you have an appetite for more?’” she says. “The companies were obviously already out there knocking on doors trying to get meetings with investors. I think what we brought to the table is some efficiency.” White also tries to make


other contacts. “I want to intro- duce companies to whoever is the world expert in whatever they’re trying to do,” she says. For example, a researcher trying to use ultrasound to create a drug delivery therapy for blad- der cancer would benefit from talking with a company trying the same thing. In its 12 years, the foundation has helped fund research efforts in the U.S. and abroad, and its leaders know a lot of people. “Yes, they need money, but sometimes they need strategic partnerships,” White says. The key hurdle is winning


approval of focused ultrasound treatments from the U.S. Food


Photo by Caroline Martin


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