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October 30, 2006

Orthopedic device startup has plans to grow

LARKFIELD - Sonoma Orthopedic Products Inc., flying in stealth mode while it got its patents in order, has announced its intention to grow in Sonoma County.

The 10-employee developer of bone implant devices has initially settled into space in the Larkfield Center where it will double its staff during 2007 and much more in the years ahead, said President and Chief Technology Officer Charles Nelson.

Sonoma Orthopedic is targeting orthopedic surgeons and specialists, trauma centers and outpatient clinics with a minimally invasive approach to broken bones and bone reinforcement.

The implant device it has developed can be used in 70 percent of human bones, although the company's first products will be aimed at the upper extremities, which are most often broken.

"Our product differs from traditional trauma and reinforcement technology in its preservation of soft tissue during surgery, tissue that remains flexible and pain-free. It prevents or reduces the scarring, pain and immobility associated with bone procedures," said Mr. Nelson.

"In general, the platform offers improved access for placement, elimination of multiple infection sites and decreased surgical trauma and post-operative complications," he said. "Both surgical time and hospital stays are dramatically reduced."

Sonoma Orthopedic's first devices are in preclinical trials, with the first phase of commercialization projected for 2008. The company has raised $3 million in venture capital so far. Another round, for an amount still to be determined, is expected to take the company to production.

"Investors are very interested in orthopedics. Our first round was oversubscribed," said Mr. Nelson.

"Our investors are more than satisfied with our progress. Our burn rate is far lower than expectations, and we're on schedule on meeting milestones," he said.

The market for treating bone trauma is $3 billion globally, the largest share involving osteoporosis, he said.

Sonoma Orthopedic's first round of venture capital was co-led by Asset Management Company of Palo Alto and EDF Ventures of Ann Arbor, Mich. The former was an early stage investor in aortic stent maker TriVascular, and the latter invested in DirectFlow Medical, which makes an aortic tissue valve prosthesis.

Other investors in include The Halo Fund and The Angels' Forum, both based in Palo Alto, and the partners themselves.

Company founders include Mr. Nelson, a chemical engineer holding 12 patents, electrical engineer Phillip Jobson, orthopedic surgeons Dr. Kai Mazurand Dr. Stephen Gunther and inventor Heber Saravia, whose name is on nine patents.

Recently joining as executive board member is industry veteran Fred Dinger III, who was president and CEO of OBI before it was acquired by Smith & Nephew in the UK and has held positions with Bristol-Myers and Honeywell.

"He's very well known for joining companies and helping them bring products to commercialization," said Mr. Nelson.

Manufacturing will initially take place in Santa Rosa. The company will be hiring sales and marketing staff, component makers, and quality and regulatory people.

Business plans call for a potential staff of more than 100 by 2010.

For contact information, visit www.sonomaorthopedics.com.

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