Entrepreneur and Inventor Combines Engineering, Biology, and Business



As a child Vahid Saadat collected butterflies and put together electronic radio kits. As an adult, he has combined these interests in biology and engineering by developing medical devices through numerous startup companies.

Upon receiving his MS in biomedical engineering and BS in electrical engineering from The University of Texas at Austin, Vahid’s career took on an entrepreneurial spirit. He is the founder/co-founder of four companies and an inventor on over 200 patents.

His interest in biomedical engineering solidified while working with Dr. Lee Baker, currently a Professor Emeritus with The University of Texas at Austin. It was in Baker’s physiology and anatomy lab, better known to graduate students at the time as the "dog lab," where Vahid first visualized engineering working in the body.

"Every day we worked on something different—from measuring intercranial pressure in a dog’s brain, measuring lung function to measuring blood pressure under various conditions," Vahid said. "It was an amazing lab, and the first time I knew I was working in the right area."

Following graduation, Vahid moved to California to work with a medical laser company, Trimedyne, an opportunity he found out about from his graduate school colleague, Bob Wilcox. After moving up from a senior engineer to vice president of research and design, Vahid left to work for Gynecare. Gynecare was an early startup specializing in treating female-related conditions. Shortly after that, he started his own company, AngioTrax, with help from a venture capitalist. At AngioTrax, he developed myocardial revascularization technologies. Since that time he has founded a gastrointestinal device company that develops technologies to attach tissues together remotely, and an orthopedic and spine company that patented the IO-Flex, a system that alleviates debilitating back pain. The system uses cardiology principles to access canals where peripheral nerves travel, eliminating the need for invasive surgeries and reducing a patient’s hospital stay and recovery time.

Vahid’s newest company, Voyage Medical, is developing the IRIS Catheter—a device to help cardiologists treat heart irregularities. After visiting with physicians, Vahid learned that one challenge for doctors who treat irregular heart rhythms is receiving adequate visual feedback from camera devices that are inserted into the heart. Doctors rely on fluoroscopy or ultrasound technologies, which do not provide optimum visual resolution. In order to help doctors see what they are doing and treat heart irregularities more effectively, Voyage Medical’s IRIS Catheter clears blood from the camera using saline and provides real-time visualization of endocardial structures.

Vahid, always on the lookout for new ideas, jots down ideas in notebooks, reads medical journal articles, and actively talks with physicians and venture capitalists. Venture capitalists, he says, are often the best source for generating ideas because they’re so willing to share information freely. Likewise, Vahid is encouraging of entrepreneurship opportunities among his peers.

"Recently I visited with a tier-one venture capitalist about the problem of tinnitus (ringing of the ears). There’s no effective treatment for tinnitus at this time, so I may do some research and talk to a hearing specialist, but I am busy with my work right now. For someone else, though, this could be a great opportunity."

September 2010