Most of us wouldn't walk out the door in the morning without at least glancing in a mirror to check our appearance. A mirror provides instant feedback so if something that should be zipped is not, or if you are experiencing some other sort of wardrobe malfunction you'll know very quickly.

Applying that same concept to its product development, Solta Medical (Hayward, California) has opened the Solta Medical Aesthetic Center, where physicians will be invited to test out the company's products and provide instant feedback to the company as to what things should be tweaked to make the devices work better.

Solta said the new center is intended to advance its product development, facilitate research on its Thermage and Fraxel product lines and serve as a destination where physicians can participate in research studies and training. Solta says it is the first company in the aesthetic energy device (AED) space with an in-house clinical and biomedical engineering lab.

Christopher Zachary, MD, a professor and chairman of dermatology at the University of California (Irvine), told Medical Device Daily that companies in the AED space typically release devices into the clinical arena before they have been thoroughly tested. Hoping the device is safe and effective, Zachary said the company often allows the laser experts around the country and also those who are not necessarily experts use the device and report back various successes or problems with it. This results in suboptimal treatment of patients, he said, and by the time the company receives the feedback the information may not be timely or accurate.

By opening an aesthetic testing center, as he called it, Solta is going the extra step, "or several extra steps," to improve its devices, Zachary said.

"These guys can pretty much instantly change that device within certain parameters so that when the next treatment is performed, which may be only 10 minutes later, they will have already tweaked something [to benefit that patient]."

George Frangineas, director of product and planning for Solta, told MDD that the Solta Medical Aesthetic Center allows the company to do clinical studies and evaluation of its existing products. He said it also allows Solta to speed up product development and "have the best leading products now and going into the future."

The center gives Solta a place to demonstrate its products in the clinical environment, which is more relevant to its customers, Frangineas said.

Solta said current studies being conducted at the Aesthetic Center include its recently released Thermage Body Tip 16.0 (Medical Device Daily, Feb. 4, 2009) and several advancements in skin tightening, resurfacing and other dermatological applications using new technology.

The company held the grand opening of the Solta Medical Aesthetic Center last week in conjunction with the 67th annual meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology (Schaumburg, Illinois) in San Francisco. Zachary was one of several physicians presenting at the meeting that discussed clinical findings using Thermage and Fraxel systems and the effectiveness of skin tightening and skin resurfacing.

"As a physician the first thing I do [when I get a new device] is look at the device and what studies have been performed and [Solta is] always well prepared," Zachary said. "There is a lot of bullshit out there in the industry and these guys work hard to get the real answers. If you don't like what they're doing they're prepared to listen and they're very welcoming of ideas from individuals of all different specialties to come and give their views."

Solta offers products to address aging skin under the brands Thermage and Fraxel. Thermage is a non-invasive radiofrequency procedure for tightening and contouring skin. Fraxel delivers minimally invasive clinical solutions to resurface aging and sun damaged skin, according to Solta.

The company said there are currently more than 4,500 physicians in nearly 80 countries who perform Thermage and Fraxel treatments.

"The Solta Medical Aesthetic Center allows for a seamless transition from the research bench to the treatment room," said Vic Narurkar, MD, dermatologist and founder of the Bay Area Laser Institute (San Francisco). "Solta's on-site clinic allows the company's optics and biomedical engineers to share data and receive immediate clinical feedback about their work in new product development and existing product enhancement."

Mike Hromadik, manager of marketing communications for Solta, told MDD that a friend of his recently visited Nike and noticed that the company has basketball courts and running tracks on its campus where Nike shoes are tested and the company uses that feedback to make its products better. "In a way, that's sort of what we're doing," Hromadik said.

Solta has received "tremendous" feedback about the new center so far, Hromadik said.

"They really do love coming to the center and playing with all the latest toys," he said. "I think it really just humanizes what we're doing in a way that we wouldn't if we didn't play the role of clinician as well as researcher and engineer."

So far March has been a good month for Solta. In addition to opening its new aesthetic center last week, the company this week reported that it has received a $9 million credit facility from SVB Financial Group.

"We are very pleased with this credit facility, as it strengthens our ability to pursue our strategic initiatives in the aesthetic marketplace," said Stephen Fanning, Solta's president/CEO and chairman.

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