Published February 16, 2010
Volume 18, Number 2

Ouroboros Medical Wins European Approval for Spinal Fusion Product
OK Marks a Milestone for New, Minimally-Invasive Procedure

Kurt Vedder, Ouroboros Medical’s president and CEO, chose a
Tri-Valley location for the company as a way to access a more
talented labor pool.

By Nicole Zaro Stahl

Back ailments sideline too many Americans. “Back or spine impairment is the leading cause of activity limitation or lost activity in the age groups 18 to 64 years,” according to Hacienda-based Ouroboros Medical, Inc., an early-stage medical device company that has received approval to market its first product in Europe.

Ouroboros focuses on developing minimally invasive spine products for degenerative disc disease, explains President and Chief Executive Officer Kurt Vedder. Almost 4.5 million patients between the ages of 25 and 74 report vertebral disc problems. More than one million spine-related surgical procedures, some 250,000 of them lumbar fusions, are performed every year in the United States. 

“Treating back pain is one of the most complex medical problems. New technologies have historically played a significant role in advancing the cause of patient care,” commented officials at the 2009 Spine Technology Summit, an industry gathering that recognized Ouroboros for its “novel minimally invasive lumbar spine fusion device” this past fall.

The Ouroboros spine system, or OSS, has been designed to improve two of the most common procedures for the treatment of lower back pain and spinal instability: spine fusion and artificial nucleus replacement. Using minimally invasive or endoscopic techniques, the surgeon inserts the OSS device, an expandable ring made of a flexible, braided mesh, in the disc space, essentially forming a containment and reinforcement cage that serves to support graft materials, thus facilitating fusion.

In terms of advancements over current fusion technologies, Vedder compares the Ouroboros spinal implant system to the shift from cardiac surgery to stents. “It saves tissue, is less invasive, and is easier on the patient. It’s a very novel device, and we are working with world-class surgeons across the country,” he says, acknowledging that the company preferred to minimize its public presence before the European approval was announced. “At our stage, stealth mode is appropriate until you have something to announce. A lot of people over-promote, and their products are not ready.”

With three graduate degrees and more than two decades of experience in early-stage companies and in the venture capital community, Vedder took the helm of Ouroboros two years ago. A Bay Area resident, he relocated most of the company’s employees from San Diego to tap the region’s deep talent pool and improve his ability to manage day to day. “We chose Hacienda because we like its location, and other medical device companies are here,” he says.

The company took its name from an ancient symbol called Ouroboros, meaning “tail devourer,” expressed graphically as a serpent or a dragon about to swallow its own tail. The typical rounded Ouroboros image bears a strong resemblance to the actual ring device developed for spinal fusion. Ouroboros also represents the concepts of cyclicality and self-renewal, appropriate metaphors for products that promote healing. 

For more information, email Vedder at kvedder@ouroborosmedical.com.

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