In a time when headlines across the country are announcing layoffs, bankruptcies and closings, Cook Medical (Bloomington, Indiana) plans on launching a new strategic business unit dedicated to the field of interventional radiology and poised to focus on many of the oncology, nonvascular and venus procedures often performed in IR labs.

"Cook is very fortunate that we're expanding when it seems like the rest of the world has been contracting," Dan Sirota, a marketing manager for Cook Medical Critical Care, told Diagnostics & Imaging Week. "Because we already have a history in the area it gives us a little leeway."

Cook was founded in 1963 and revolved around early versions of IR. But as time went on, the company spread out into different segments.

Sirota said this is more or less a return to form for the company.

"Cook's roots were in IR – that's where we got our start," he told D&IW. As we've grown, so has our focus. This SBU gives us that product development focus. We're really focused on the procedures that would be non arterial non angiographic. The IR business focus will be an internal one, working with IR to problem solve and to develop treatments and new products."

Interventional radiology is a subspecialty of radiology in which minimally invasive procedures are performed using image guidance. Some of these procedures are done for purely diagnostic purposes (e.g., angiogram), while others are done for treatment purposes (e.g., angioplasty).

Pictures (images) are used to direct these procedures, which are usually done with needles or catheters. The images provide road maps that allow the interventional radiologist to guide these instruments through the body to the areas of interest.

The company said its move back to this space would provide a laser-beam focus to the industry. But Sirota declined comment on exactly what kinds of products the company was developing.

Cook said that the new SBU would advance innovation in the IR field, designing new imaging technologies with interventional radiologists in mind that will directly impact the quality of patient care.

Advancements in the field of IR have nearly eliminated exploratory surgeries, allowing for interventional radiologists to partner with physicians in various practice groups to diagnose and treat various medical issues with imaging. This has reduced downtime for patients and saved hospitals millions of dollars annually.

"We expect to see significant growth in this sector," Sirota said. "We're going to bring devices to the market quicker and we expect to see some significant double-digit growth over the next two to three years."

Cook's promises of success continue to move forward as of late, despite today's economic climate.

In December, the company reported the creation of new jobs with the development of Cook Canton, a new medical device manufacturing plant to be located at the former International Harvester plant in Canton, Illinois.

In collaboration with the city of Canton, Cook Medical said it plans to invest in excess of $5 million in a 45,000-square-foot facility by this fall. Bill Cook, founder of Cook Medical, was raised in Canton and remains close to many in the area.

The company also has submitted an Investigational Device Exemption application to the FDA for its new Zenith Low Profile Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) endovascular graft. The company said that the device could bring the option of endovascular treatment of aneurysms to patients whose only current option is open surgery due to the small diameter of their blood vessels and other anatomic issues.

The Zenith Low Profile AAA endograft system employs a 16 Fr delivery sheath, significantly thinner in diameter than the current systems used by Cook and other companies, which are 20 Fr to 22 Fr.