July 25th 2013
By Olivia Just
While the years of study required in medical school have never been considered an easy career path, entrepreneurship might be just as rocky, and even more uncertain.
Nevertheless, in 2011, Joshua Aferzon, originally from Avon, dropped his plans to attend medical school and, while still a student at the University of Connecticut, decided to take his interests in biomedical engineering in another direction.
Like many entrepreneurs before him, Aferzon planted the seeds of Orthozon Technologies, a biotech firm that supplies equipment for spinal surgeries, in his dorm room at school. Two years later, the company has gained its first office space at the Stamford Innovation Center, hired three employees and received FDA approval for the the Lumiere Retractor System, which is designed to facilitate lower spinal surgeries.
Working out of one of four adjacent cubicles at the Innovation Center, which the company moved into earlier this year, Aferzon noted that the start-up, while still in its early stages, has come a long way from where it was a year ago. The retractor, which was approved in April, is “literally flying off the shelves,” he said.
The tool is intended to make lower spine surgery minimally invasive and cut down on patient recovery time. A small, open-ended plastic tube, the retractor splits the muscle around the spine to create a “portal” for the surgeon to operate, reducing the size of the incision and allowing the patient to leave the hospital the same day, Aferzon said. The retractor uses built-in fiber optic lighting, blades that are rotatable for full medial access, and provides the surgeon with an expanded view of the area.
“The spine is the No. 1 reason for doctor visits in the U.S.,” Aferzon said. “Not many people know that. This is a complete overhaul of current retractor technologies.”
Aferzon’s first brush with biotech came at 16, when he co-developed another medical device with his father, a surgeon. Once he’d created Orthozon Technologies, he was able to license the idea for the Lumiere Retractor and has been developing the technology since last year. So far, it’s been approved in five hospital centers in Connecticut, and used in 25 cases within the state, Aferzon said. Now that the company has its roots in Stamford, he plans to reach out to Greenwich and Stamford hospitals and eventually roll out national distribution of the product.
“Josh is a remarkable entrepreneur,” said Peter Propp, vice president of marketing at the Innovation Center. “He’s a young guy, and his maturity and focus as an entrepreneur is inspiring to the other people at the center. He has a clear vision and he works extremely hard to take the steps necessary to achieve his goal. He’s already producing revenue which, for a young company, is remarkable.”