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1318 posts categorized "Speculation"

March 02, 2015

Mayo Clinic-linked NeoChord looking to drum up $1.5 million

NeoChord, a medical device firm I first wrote about in 2007, filed with the SEC in February to raise $1.5 million in funding. So far it has pulled in $457,000 or so of that.

I need to give a nod to the intrepid Katharine Grayson of the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal for first pointing this out. I'm always impressed by how closely she tracks Form D filings for financing.Portfolio-neochord-260x138

The Eden Prairie-based NeoChord surfaced locally in 2007, when it licensed technology designed by Mayo Clinic cardiac surgeons Dr. Richard Daly and Dr. Giovanni Speziali. Speziali was named as the company's chief medical officer in 2013. 

Beside licensing its technology, Mayo Clinic has also previously invested in NeoChord. I'm checking to to see if that is still the case.

Neochord deviceThe NeoChord DS1000 device is used to treat a heart condition called mitral regurgitation. Mitral regurgitation means the valve or leaflet that controls the flow of blood from the left atrium to the left ventricle is not working properly.

Treatment typically consists of “cracking the chest,” stopping the heart and doing surgery. NeoChord's approach is much less invasive and can be done on a beating heart.

A tool is inserted between the ribs and into the heart. Then it is used to attach a chord to the faulty valve leaflet, which is tethered to the heart.

The market for less invasive techniques for mitral valve repair has been estimated at more than $2 billion. There are 50,000 surgeries done in the U.S. each year. An estimated 2 million patients are treated due to the risks of surgery.

Since it formed in 2007, NeoChord's lifeblood has been venture capital funding. By 2008, it had raised $3 million. It raised another $5.1 million in 2011 to finance the European clinical trial. In March 2013, it raised $3 million through the sale of its series B-2 preferred stock.

 

February 25, 2015

City to lease former Mayo Clinic space to Cardio3

This has been in the works for quite a while. It looks like it's now a done deal, at least on the city, RAEDI and DEED side.

We'll see what happens next. After following this for more than a decade, it will be interesting to see how it plays out. I'm particularly fascinated with how the China piece of this, including Medisun and Danny Wong, turns out.

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After amending its original lease, Belgium-based Cardio3 BioSciences is now finally cleared to take over the entire fifth floor C3BS_may_spotlightof Rochester's Minnesota BioBusiness Center.

In December, the Rochester City Council originally approved a five-year agreement with Cardio3 for the 14,963-square-feet of space to use as a prototype manufacturing facility. However, the company then asked for "an early termination provision" in the lease.

The deal is being driven by the city, Rochester Area Economic Development Inc., Mayo Clinic and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development to make Rochester more attractive to Cardio3, so that the company will build a major manufacturing plant here.

This is the second phase of deal funded by $1.2 million from the city of Rochester's economic development sales tax fund. The first phase was developing little more than 5,000 square feet of unused space on the third floor of the BioBusiness Center to build a special manufacturing lab for Cardio3.

Mayo Clinic and Cardio3 have collaborated for years on the cardiopoiesis technology the company uses to repair patients' hearts by re-programming their own stem cells to regenerate cardiac tissue. Mayo Clinic owned 2.96 percent of the company as of Jan. 21. It's also managing a clinical trial for Cardio3.
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On Wednesday, city council members voted to add an early termination provision to the deal that allows Cardio3 to end the five-year lease after just two years in the space. That provision kicks in only if Cardio3 decides to "construct or lease a larger production facility in Rochester" or the clinical trial on its regenerative heart treatment is not successful.

To leave early, Cardio3 will need to notify the city six months ahead of time. Under the modified lease, the earliest that the regenerative medicine firm could pull out is April 30, 2017. Cardio3 would need to pay the city $269,334 if it did leave earlier than five years. That amount equals about one year of base rent.

If Cardio3 does leave before its lease is up, all of the city-funded fixed equipment and improvements will become the city of Rochester's property. The city agreed in the lease to pay for $600,000 in equipment and improvements to the space.

The final version of the lease calls for Cardio3 to pay a rent of $18 per square foot or $22,444.50 a month.

Mayo Clinic, which leases the fourth through eighth floors of the BioBusiness Center, moved its employees out of the fifth floor earlier this year. At one point, Mayo Clinic Global Products' corporate accounts had offices on the fifth floor.

In earlier discussions about this project, RAEDI estimated that Cardio3 will need 30 to 50 employees to staff the proposed prototype manufacturing facility on the fifth floor.

The ultimate goal of this project is to convince Cardio3 to build a 100,000-square-foot manufacturing facility with 350 employees in Rochester. That's what Cardio3 anticipates it will need if the Federal Drug Administration gives it a green light to take its stem cell treatment to market.

RAEDI President Gary Smith calls it "the big enchilada."

February 23, 2015

Delta to end Rochester-Detroit flights in April

Despite their popularity, nonstop flights to Detroit will soon end for passengers using the Rochester International Airport, after only a few months.

5403bad42fa22.imageAfter about six months, Delta Air Lines has notified the airport that it will be pulling the plug on the daily nonstop flights to Detroit on April 9, according the new Airport Director John Reed.

Reed says he received notification from Delta on Feb. 17, his second day on the job. Delta launched the Detroit and Atlanta flights in September with great fanfare with many saying it was needed for the anticipated increase in air travel expected due to Mayo Clinic's Destination Medical Center initiative.

While the City of Rochester owns the airport, Mayo Clinic is contracted to manage it via its Rochester Airport Co.

Delta confirmed Monday that the flights will end with a short statement that said it "has made the decision to indefinitely suspend Rochester service to Detroit to ensure we’re matching capacity with demand."

This is not the first time Delta has ended flights from Rochester to Detroit. It killed a similar flight back in 2011.

While the Detroit will come to an end, Delta did stress that its daily flights to Atlanta and Minneapolis will continue. In fact, Delta intends add another Minneapolis flight as the Detroit one ends, according to Reed.

"Essentially, our seat capacity will remain the same," he said.

Numbers from the airport shows that the new flights did bump up its Rochester passenger numbers in 2014 by 20 percent over 2013. Rochester Airport Co. President Steve McNeill, who works for Mayo Clinic, recently reported that Delta had 120,474 passengers here in 2014. From September through December, the months of service to all three of its hubs, the count was 41,854, an 18 percent or 6,500 increase over the similar period in 2013.

"We're certainly happy with the new, expanded service," said McNeill earlier this month, "and I'm sure Delta is, too." Flight payloads, or occupancy levels, were slightly above expectations, with flights to Atlanta averaging at about the mid-80s percent, and to Detroit slightly lower, he added.

Reed says data shows that the Detroit flights ran about 75 percent filled, most of the time.

"It wasn't that the community wasn't supporting us, because they were," he said.

Mayor Ardell Brede hadn't been notified yet about the change on Monday. He said, if true, it would a loss for Rochester.

"I liked that flight," he said. Brede added that it was full when he recently used it.

Reed and Brede both said that they had heard that a shortage of pilots was one reason that Delta ended the flight.

Another possible factor could be a $950,000 "risk mitigation fund set up to guarantee Delta a profit on the new flights during the first year. The rub is that the fund, made up of federal grants, a city match and private donations, doesn't cover the Detroit flight. It only guarantees a profit for Delta's Atlanta fight.

A Delta media representative didn't know about the fund or if it could have played a part in this change.

The ending of the Detroit flights does cast a pall on the airport's future requirement of airlines, to add flights, like ones to Denver.

In May, a national air service consultant said in a Rochester Area Chamber-sponsored forum that, "Adding Atlanta and Detroit is a game changer."

He followed that by saying that many other airlines will be watching how those flights fare.

"This is an important test case to prove that you can fill the larger airplanes. If they (Delta) have to pull it, it would be a big red flag," Joseph Pickering told the crowd of local business leaders.

February 13, 2015

Reuters: Hormel's near big buy of organic hot dog, bacon maker

Reuters' Olivia Oran filed an interesting story Thursday about Austin's favorite Fortune 500 company.

363Hormel Foods reportedly is "in late-stage talks" to snap up Applegate Farms. Applegate is in the organic pork biz and makes organic hot dogs, bacon and sausage.

Here's a snippet from the Reuters' piece:

A deal for Applegate Farms could be announced as early as next week and value the Bridgewater, New Jersey-based company at between $600 million and $1 billion, the people said, asking not to be named because the matter is confidential.Spamproducts

This would make a lot sense. Applegate is in Hormel's sweet spot.

It processes a lot of hogs. It would extend Hormel's geographic reach. Plus it would them more deeply into the trendy market of organic meat.

We'll have to see if Oran's insider is right and/or if Hormel can close the deal.

 

February 12, 2015

Prosthetics lab complex sold for $4.51 million

The Rochester commercial complex that houses a prosthetics firm and a veterinarian clinic recently sold for $4.51 million.

02122014prostheticslabcomplexRochester developer Gus Chafoulias sold the 13-year-old building at 121 23rd Ave. SW  to Mace Holdings LLP of Billings, Mont. Chafoulias developed and owned the 28,000-square-foot facility through his company, ACG Second Street LLC.

Prosthetic Laboratories of Rochester, Inc. and Affiliated Emergency Veterinary Service are tenants in the center, which stands in front of the Shorewood Senior Campus along Second Street Southwest. Chafoulias was invested in Prosthetic Labs until it sold to Hanger Inc. last year.

Michael R. Mace, managing partner of Mace Holdings, says the purchase is simply an investment for he and his wife.

"We think Rochester, Minn. is a dynamic community with wonderful people. We just think it's a great place to be doing business," said Mace.

February 11, 2015

Bidding on memories at Michaels auction

Here's the details on Thursday's auction. I have a full story on this in today's paper.

Michaels auction

On Thursday, more than 2,000 lots will be auctioned off by Grafe Auction of Spring Valley and John Kruesel's General Merchandise & Auction Co., at the restaurant at 15 S. Broadway.

FrmReadMail_Attachment-1The schedule:
• 10 a.m.: Kitchen smallwares, dining rooms, bar and offices.
• 1 p.m.: Laundry, locker rooms, meat cutting room, kitchen and scratch bakery.
• 5 p.m. : Artwork, antiques, decor and building effects, including the front doors.

Online: People can bid online before and during the live auction at Grafe Auction's site at www.proxibid.com.

More information: General  and restaurant equipment questions should be directed to Grafe Auction at 800-328-5920. Questions on artwork and antiques should be directed to John Kruesel at 254-1614.

February 03, 2015

Closed Erbert & Gerbert's might be back downtown

A downtown Rochester sandwich shop has cut its final slice of bread … at least for now.

On Sunday, Erbert & Gerbert's closed its doors in the Brackenridge Skyway Plaza at 21 Second St. SW.

02022015erbertssignThe Dettinger family originally opened that the 1,600-square-foot shop in 2003. They have a second Rochester location at 2848 41st St. NW, which is unaffected by the downtown closing.

Signs posted on the window of the closed Erbert & Gerbert's did offer some hope for downtown fans who like a Boney Billy turkey sandwich or a cup of Buffalo Chicken soup.

"We look forward to serving you from a new location downtown in the near future," the sign states.

Owner Jake Dettinger confirmed that he is now on the hunt for a new downtown location.

"That's our plan. We really like being in downtown," he said.

While the downtown shop is closed, Dettinger said the 41st Street location does offer delivery to downtown.

"We can still serve most of our delivery and regular customers downtown," he said.

Many of the downtown staff opted to move to the 41st Street shop, so it does have more staff to handle more orders.

When Dettinger opened Erbert & Gerbert's in the Brackenridge in 2003, his team stepped into part of a spot that once housed Victoria's Authentic Italian Cuisine. Victoria's moved to 7 First Ave. SW.

The Brackenridge Skyway Plaza was last in the news in September 2014, when it was purchased by Baheya LLC for $10 million. The Bishop family of Rochester sold the 50,000-square-foot complex after owning it for many years. Besides the sandwich shop, other long-term tenants include Mayo Clinic, the Zumbro Valley Medical Society and a small scarf store along the skyway.

January 28, 2015

Talk of layoffs rattles IBM workers

Talk of massive layoffs at struggling tech giant IBM hit the halls of Big Blue in Rochester today.

Lee Conrad, national coordinator of the pro-union group Alliance@IBM, said this morning that layoffs were being reported on IBM's campuses in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and Research Triangle Park in North Carolina. However, he had not heard of any in Rochester.

"It going to be a bad day for IBM employees and their families," Conrad said.

IBM buildinglogoWhile no layoffs could be confirmed on the Rochester campus, IBM did concede this week that "several thousand" job cuts were coming as it refuted a Forbes column claiming 26 percent of the firm's employees would be laid off.

"IBM does not comment on rumors, even ridiculous or baseless ones," said IBM spokesman Doug Shelton. "If anyone had checked information readily available from our public earnings statements, or had simply asked us, they would know that IBM has already announced the company has just taken a $600 million charge for workforce rebalancing. This equates to several thousand people, a small fraction of what's been reported."

Shelton's comments were in reaction to a Forbes article by tech columnist Robert X. Cringely. Cringely recently reported IBM planned to lay off 26 percent of its workforce, about 110,000 people, in an operation codenamed "Project Chrome."

"I’ve been hearing since before Christmas about Project Chrome, the code name for what has been touted to me as the biggest reorganization in IBM history. Well, Project Chrome is finally upon us, triggered I suppose by this week’s announcement of an 11th consecutive quarter of declining revenue for IBM. Project Chrome is bad news, not good. Customers and employees alike should expect the worst," he wrote.

Alliance@IBM, put out a statement that it did not believe the layoffs would be as extensive as Cringley is predicting.

"The Alliance has no information that this is true, and we are urging caution on reporting this number as fact. But as you all know, anything can happen at IBM anymore, and this is the time of year that IBM cuts jobs," Conrad wrote.

He followed that note with another one on Tuesday, which said inside sources were saying this round of layoffs would occur today and Thursday.

In recent years, IBM has dramatically reduced its presence in Rochester. Once topping out at more than 8,000 employees in the 1990s, an unofficial data "snapshot" calculated 2,300 full-time IBM employees working in Rochester today.

Since 2008, IBM has refused to release specific employee numbers at its campuses. However, it is still considered Rochester's second-largest private employer.

IBM Rochester has emptied several buildings on its campus and leased them to tenants such as Charter Communications and HGST.

January 27, 2015

Mayo looks to attract more patients from China

To take advantage of the rapidly growing medical tourism market, Mayo Clinic has deepened its relationship with a Hong Kong firm to bring more Chinese patients to Rochester.

Medisun Holdings Ltd. announced Monday it has signed a collaLogoborative deal to "Ensure efficient referral of patients" to Mayo Clinic. The agreement also calls for Mayo Clinic "to provide health care consulting services to aid Medisun’s work" in Hong Kong and mainland China.

This will allow Mayo Clinic to enlarge its patient pipeline from China. It has added a Web page in Mandarin Chinese and has hired interpreters, the article notes. The Wall Street Journal recently reported increasing numbers of Chinese residents are going overseas "in search of treatment that is either unavailable or ineffective in China."
800px-Gonda_building,_closer_up
Mikel Prieto, medical director of Mayo Clinic's international office, told the Wall Street Journal that "China, probably of all countries, is the one where we see the greatest growth right now."

Melissa Goodwin, Mayo Clinic's manager of global referrals, told China's Caixin Media this summer the number of Chinese people going to Mayo has climbed to 200 in 2013. That's up from just 30 in 2008 and 100 in 2012. She estimated that number would reach 400 by the end of 2014. 

H3-treesDetails of the new Medisun/Mayo Clinic arrangement still are being hammered out, according to Dr. Jason Zhang, of Medisun.

Zhang did confirm that a $1 million office being built in Titan Development and Investments's new H3 Plaza complex on South Broadway will house Medisun's Rochester operations. It's being built under the name Alphaomega Healthcare, though Zhang said he expects it to eventually change to Medisun.

He explained the office will be used to support Chinese patients traveling to Rochester for treatment.

"The medical service will be provided by Mayo, and everything else will be provided by Medisun," Zhang said.

The Medisun office is expected to open in March or April in the west corner of H3 Plaza at 300 S. Broadway, he said. The office will occupy parts of the second and third floors of the seven-story complex, which is being developed by Titan's Andy and Gus Chafoulias.

“Consulting with Mayo Clinic, and leveraging Medisun’s top-quality medical institutions in Hong Kong … Medisun’s experienced medical team will facilitate access to Mayo Clinic’s world-class model of care in order to provide patients in China and Asia with superior medical services,” Medisun's Chairman Danny Wong said in Monday's announcement.
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Wong visited Rochester this summer in connection to his company's investment in Cardio3 Biosciences. Cardio3, a Belgium company with deep business and scientific ties with Mayo Clinic, is negotiating a lease deal with the City of Rochester for the fifth floor of the Minnesota Biobusiness Center.

While in Rochester, Wong had his photo taken at the clinic with local leaders, including Gus Chafoulias and Mayo's Lisa Clarke, who leads the Destination Medical Center initiative.

Wong recently showed his interest in Rochester by buying two large estates here. On Oct. 31, he bought an estate at 2515 Crest Lane SW for $1.4 million. Wong followed that up by buying a Pill Hill house at 615 10 Ave. SW for $1.31 million.

Options abound for one of Rochester's oldest storefronts

While many are speculating about the future of a 129-year-old building in the heart of Rochester's downtown, the owners say they haven't locked down a plan yet.

549b9e10ed075.imageThe long-empty former Paine Furniture store at 313 S. Broadway was purchased by local developers Hal Henderson and Grant Michelitz in November. The deal also included the attached 309 S. Broadway building now occupied by Big Brad's bar on Broadway.

Some renovation work and installation of new windows is being done on the second floor, said Henderson. They also hope to build a skyway across the alley to connect the Paine building to the 318 Commons building, also owned by Henderson and Michelitz.

The University of Minnesota Rochester leases space in the 318 Commons building for student housing, office space and classrooms. A connecting skyway could make the second floor of Paine building attractive to UMR.

"We do foresee space crunches in our growth plan prior to the development of the future campus," said Jay Hesley, assistant vice chancellor for institutional advancement. While no decisions have been made, Hesley acknowledged the university had looked at the second floor of the Paine building.

"We've certainly explored all of the different opportunities that are available, and that was certainly one of them on the list," he said.

Henderson said there have been preliminary talks with UMR officials about the Paine building. He also said an option is to demolish the Paine complex and put up a building that would be a sibling to 318 Commons.

"I do have more real estate on that block," he said. "In the future, we may have a plan that we may try to unveil or look at pretty seriously." Henderson owns the adjacent Cafe Steam at 315 S. Broadway and the Canvas & Chardonnay building at 317 S. Broadway. "It all depends on what transpires in the next three to six months" with Destination Medical Center and the university's plans, he said. "I think right now, everyone is still leaving their options open."