Joint Effort

Joint Effort

At OrthoCor, a venture capitalist and an electrical engineer create “a next-generation heating pad” for troubled knees.

When it comes to knee problems, options for pain relief basically go from over-the-counter painkillers to replacement surgery. OrthoCor Medical believes it has found a middle-ground therapy for knee pain caused by arthritis, sprains, and inflammation, and Minnesota’s angel investors seem to agree.

The Minneapolis-based company raised more than $1 million last year, financial backing that is a testament to the potential of OrthoCor’s product, says John Dinusson, a company cofounder and its president and CEO.

There are 26 million people in the United States who suffer from joint pain. Patients with knee-related problems make an estimated 19 million visits to physicians’ offices each year in the U.S., Dinusson says. He believes that his company’s primary opportunity lies in the $371 million topical pain relief market.

“People with knee pain can’t function as well, and they are looking for something to improve their lifestyle,” Dinusson says. “That’s why we’re so excited . . . .[O]ur device helps keep them active and moving.”

The OrthoCor Active Knee System combines heat and electrical therapy to increase circulation and thus reduce swelling and improve range of motion. The device’s technology consists of a cuff that surrounds the knee, along with two disks, placed inside the cuff, that send magnetic pulses and heat through the injured tissue. Patients can walk about while the OrthoCor device is in operation.

OrthoCor received Food and Drug Administration approval last year to start selling its device in May 2010. Instead of seeking reimbursement from insurance companies and Medicare and Medicaid, OrthoCor will sell its products through chiropractic clinics; in time, the company hopes to add a sales channel with orthopedic physicians. Further down the road, OrthoCor would like to apply its technology to devices for relieving ankle, back, neck, and wrist pain.

Dinusson, who spent a decade in the venture capital industry in San Francisco, moved home to Minnesota to sit on the other side of the table. His business partner is Kin-Joe Sham, a Minnesota electrical engineer with years of experience in the medical device field. They developed the OrthoCor knee product in two and a half years, and brought it to market for just $1 million.

“We’ve been having a blast designing and developing a product, finding equity investors, and driving the company to success for them,” Dinusson says. “And then getting a product that can return people to an active lifestyle and improve their life is huge.”

OrthoCor’s product isn’t currently covered by medical insurance. But if enough people find that the Active Knee System provides relief, insurers may feel the heat.