August 23, 2003 12:00 AM
By L.A. Lorek
Express-News Business Writer
San Antonio Express-News
A severe car wreck almost killed Jeff Latham in 1995, leaving him with painful migraine headaches.
For two years, Latham, a physical therapist, suffered during the migraine attacks so much that he tried everything to cool off his head and end the pain, including sticking his head under a faucet.
The experience inspired Latham to develop a new cooling helmet that looks like a blue plastic hood attached by tubes to a cooler. He patented the device and started up a company called Traumatec.
The company has raised about $275,000, primarily through friends and family, and has just started manufacturing its cooling helmets called Neuro-Cool, which cost $495 a system.
Traumatec's main mission is helping patients especially with neurological pain and disorders, Latham said.
The San Antonio Technology Accelerator Initiative or SATAI Network has been working with Traumatec on its business plans to secure financing and for marketing efforts.
"He epitomizes what characterizes an entrepreneur," said Randy Goldsmith, executive director of SATAI.
Latham has been very driven to get his product to market, Goldsmith said. It's one of the most difficult times to launch a company, he said, but Latham has demonstrated the necessary strategy to continue to press forward and be resourceful.
"It's been an extremely tough road in the start-up world for any new idea or any new company," Latham said.
But he has persisted during tough times, and Traumatec's product already is on the market. Cincinnati Sub-Zero, a medical manufacturer that makes heating and cooling therapy systems, has licensed the technology and is manufacturing the helmets.
"Jeff is a young man with a deep commitment and a passion," said Jerry G. Silvertooth, Cincinnati Sub-Zero's vice president. "He believes very strongly in what he's doing and bettering patient care for head injury."
As a therapist working at University Hospital, Latham witnessed the need for a cooling device to help patients with head injury and cardiac arrest. The Neuro-Cool system is aimed at the acute care hospital market for patients and for home use by migraine sufferers.
"This is not a cure, it's a therapeutic intervention," Latham said.
An estimated 36 million people in the United States suffer from serious migraine headaches, multiple sclerosis or overheating conditions. Although expensive medications address some of the problems, Latham said, few alternative therapy devices exist that provide long-lasting head and neck cooling for these debilitating symptoms.
Early tests and trials on migraine sufferers and others have been very successful in helping to alleviate pain and cool the head, Latham said.
Traumatec plans to start an early clinical trial studying Neuro-Cool's ability to lower head temperature in injured patients with Dr. John Kuluz, associate professor of pediatrics at University of Miami School of Medicine.
"I'm very excited about the brain-cooling helmet he has created," Kuluz said. "I'm hopeful it will do better than previous helmets."
Kuluz is interested in applying Traumatec's head-cooling technology to children. He wants to see if the Neuro-Cool device will lower brain temperatures to prevent secondary injury while not causing the side effects on the rest of the body that hypothermia causes.
"I think it has promise and I'm hopeful it will be beneficial in reducing the long-term neurological deficits these kids have to endure," Kuluz said.
Traumatec also has a portfolio of U.S. and international patents pending for 15 products related to cooling technology, Latham said. The Neuro-Cool is the first of many products, he said.
"I think we've been very blessed as a company," Latham said. "For me to survive a car wreck and literally come off my back from the street, I really have to give credit to the man upstairs."
Neuro-Cool: How it works
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