The Silicon Review
“VESTECK is a catheter that delivers preloaded nitinol sutures, securing endovascular aortic repair grafts to the aorta at the time of initial implant or repair procedures.”
Joseph W. Rafferty Sr. has enjoyed a decades-long career, creating significant value while in multiple leadership roles in the medical device industry. His career has leveraged the foundational education of a large corporate background in high-growth markets to benefit his medical technology startup roles. This background has allowed Mr. Rafferty to bring multiple devices from early design sketches through successful commercialization.
In 2019, Mr. Rafferty was recruited as the CEO of VESTECK, Inc. – a company that develops medical devices, treating patients diagnosed with aortic aneurysms. The company's "Suture-Tight" catheter delivers sutures that secure endovascular aortic repair grafts to the aorta at the time of initial implant or repairs. Suture-Tight eliminates the aortic graft migration and endoleaks, leading to complex, expensive repairs and mortality, enabling clients to improve clinical outcomes for endovascular aortic aneurysm patients.
Joseph W. Rafferty Sr. spoke exclusively to The Silicon Review. Below is an excerpt.
Q. What's your story? And tell us what motivated you to establish VESTECK.
Over the past decades, I have been involved in the medical device industry, primarily focused on the commercialization of cutting-edge technology in the Cardiovascular, peripheral vascular segments of the business.
Recently, a colleague, Peter Hinchliffe, introduced me to Dr. John Edoga and Dr. Thierry Richard, the founders of the VESTECK Suture-Tight technology. Peter mentioned that the surgeons had invented a game-changing technology and were recruiting the appropriate executive leadership to bring the company through fundraising, manufacturing, FDA regulatory processes, and commercialization or M&A.
The product and the problem, if a family member or friend is diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm, there is an 80 percent chance that the physician and patient would choose an endovascular repair (EVAR). In an EVAR procedure, the physician inserts a stent graft through two small holes in the arteries of the leg. The procedure is relatively painless, quick recovery, and patients typically do very well in the early years. However, in my due diligence on the EVAR procedure, the peer-reviewed literature says EVAR is not very durable. EVAR patients too often have to return for complex, expensive repair procedures at an alarming rate, 20 percent at five years, 30 percent at 10 years, and 35 percent at 14 years.
The global magnitude of the problem is what motivated me to get involved. Physicians told me they needed better tools to make this endovascular repair procedure more durable, allowing patients to live longer without complex expensive repair procedures.
That is where the VESTECK technology excels. VESTECK is a platform catheter that delivers preloaded nitinol sutures, securing endovascular aortic repair grafts to the aorta at the time of initial implant or when patients return for revision procedures. This technology is truly lifesaving.
Q. Tell me about the most difficult customer encounter you've experienced. And how did you handle it?
We really have three customers, the patient, the physician, and the healthcare system. All three want the best long-term outcomes for the obvious reasons. Simply, if physicians can address aortic aneurysm patients' challenges with a durable repair, everyone wins. Patients live longer; physicians don't have to perform complex, expensive repeat procedures.
Q. Trust is one of the most important currencies of leadership that requires authenticity and consistency to maintain. What's your take on this?
I absolutely agree. All relationships are built on trust. When bringing together the VESTECK leadership team, I was excited that our core team has worked together in the past and trusts each other enough to work together again.
Frankly, everyone on the leadership team left great paying jobs, with benefits and equity in exciting markets to come to VESTECK. That is the manifestation of trust.
Q. Who do you look up to and why?
As the second oldest of nine children, I learned a great deal from my father and mother. Our family is a faith-filled group. My parents provided wonderful examples of faith, teaching leadership, accountability, and teamwork.
Q. Where does VESTECK stand at the moment relative to other participants in the industry?
VESTECK is a revolutionary third-generation technology platform. Faster, safer, more precise suture delivery provides significant patient and physician benefits. We have only one competitor that has significant limitations, peer reviewed literature says 30% are maldeployed and of no use. Physicians tell me they are in need of updated tools.
Q. What can you tell us about Suture-Tight? And how does it solve challenges for physicians and patients globally?
Globally, if physicians use the ‘Suture-Tight’ at the time of initial implant, we can eliminate many repair procedures. When used at the initial implant, Suture-Tight will save the global health care community over $9B in the next 10 years. Also, the Suture-Tight catheter brings significant benefits to patients, physicians, and payors in the $4.5B aortic repair market.
Q. From your perspective, how is the industry you serve currently evolving? And what are the trends in the different categories?
Hospital and physician reimbursement are shifting from a fee-for-service payment structure to ‘quality initiatives’ rewarding durable patient-centric procedures. VESTECK fits right into this quality mentality. When used at the time of initial EVAR/TEVAR implant, ‘Suture-Tight’ will significantly minimize the frequency, complexity and costs of repair procedures.
Q. How do you plan to counter challenges that you think VESTECK might face in the next five years?
We are communicating early and often with the FDA to minimize any unforeseen questions. We are focusing a great deal of resources on extending our Intellectual Property runway to provide potential M&A partners additional value. With the insight of Dr. David Deaton, our Chief Medical Consultant and our Scientific Advisory Board we will successfully conduct a robust 100 patient clinical trial.
Q. Is there anything else you want us to highlight that we might have missed?
Very candidly, I sincerely appreciate being surrounded by the ‘World Class Team’ and BOD we have assembled. Our Chief Technology Officer Ted Wulfman, VP of R&D and COO Kent Stalker, Dr. David Deaton, Project Manager Mark Steele, and our Regulatory Consultant Dorothy Abel are individuals that bring exceptional skills and credibility to our team.
The Visionary Leader at the Helm of VESTECK, Inc.
Joseph W. Rafferty Sr. is the Chief Executive Officer of VESTECK, Inc. He also leads the development, regulatory approval, and commercialization of the company. As the founder, CEO, and president of National Medical Sales (NMS), a product development, marketing, and commercialization consulting group, his work facilitated the $18M acquisition of the Solopath technology by Terumo. Also, in just a few short years, NMS took a novel, first-mover CO2 delivery system from evolving prototype to a multimillion-dollar global market leadership position.
As the VP of Global Sales at Pathway medical, Mr. Rafferty built the "World Class" Sales, Operations, Customer Service, and Clinical Training teams for the tremendously successful commercialization of the Jetstream atherectomy device. Eventually, exited to Bayer for $125M.
As VP and GM of Sterilox (now Puricor), Mr. Rafferty led the initiative and teams that identified new market opportunities. There, he and his team developed customized products from initial design drawings through manufacturing, regulatory clearance, and commercialization in the Medical, Dental, Food Sanitation, and Hospitality markets.
In various leadership roles while at the iconic ACS/Guidant, Mr. Rafferty pioneered the ‘Price Per Procedure’ concept, which quickly became the standard marketing practice for all global medical device companies.
Mr. Rafferty is a proud graduate of Temple University. He and Beth, his wife of 40+ years, are the parents of four children and proud grandparents of three.