Hopkins research spawns a firm Production of vest could replace CPR

December 19, 1992|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,Staff Writer

Johns Hopkins University gave local business leaders the holiday present they have been begging for: a new Baltimore company founded on Hopkins research.

CardioLogic Systems Inc., a company that hopes to sell an inflatable vest that could replace CPR in helping to save the lives of cardiac arrest patients, has been formed with backing of two venture capital funds and tentative financial support from Baltimore.

"This is the first of the Hopkins start-ups where the university and the faculty own equity in a company based solely on Hopkins research," said Francis J. Meyer, the school's assistant dean for technology licensing.

The university changed its conflict of interest rules last summer to encourage the formation of local companies by allowing the faculty and the university to hold an equity stake. Previously, such an interest was strictly prohibited.

"Hopkins with its new leadership is being wonderfully responsive," said John Weiss, who directs the Maryland Venture Capital Trust, which invests state pension funds in start-up companies. "I think you will see several more [companies]."

The university has an equity stake in another out-of-town company that signed a deal only a few days before CardioLogic, but it would not reveal details of that deal.

The change in Hopkins is welcomed by business leaders who see the School of Medicine as a gold mine of research to be commercialized. They also hope that life sciences companies can turn Baltimore into a national center of biotechnology and become the economic engine that provides jobs for the region.

The device is the result of more than a decade of research at Hopkins, where modern cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was invented and first used in 1958.

The device, which looks like a long blood pressure cuff, fits around a person's chest and is adjusted with Velcro. There are two tubes that run out of the device and into a pneumatic pump and a computer. Inflated in 1.2 seconds, the vest maintains a small amount of pressure on the chest between compressions. Every fifth compression, it deflates completely.

Mr. Meyer said the company was looking to sign a lease for office space within the next six weeks and to employ 50 people within two years.

The company is a welcome step in the development of the life sciences industry in Baltimore, said David Gillece, who is under contract to direct the business development program in the life sciences for the Greater Baltimore Committee. He said it brings more talented business people to town and has attracted $4.5 million in capital from Allstate Venture Capital and Montgomery Medical Ventures, two large venture capital firms.

"I don't think anyone forecasts it to become a Fortune 500, but it is a niche company with a product that could grow quite nicely."

CardioLogic was attracted to Baltimore, rather than the surrounding suburbs, because the city's venture capital fund, the Enterprise Development Fund, has offered $200,000 in exchange for a note and warrants for that can be exercised within a given time period.

In January, the fund's advisory committee will recommend to the city's Board of Estimates that it approve the investment.

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