Rudy Mazzocchi may have spent his last two years as a managing director at a venture capital firm, but the new CEO of NovaVision (Boca Raton, Florida) is no stranger to the startup world.
"I'm a serial entrepreneur this is my fourth CEO position," Mazzocchi told Medical Device Daily.
Mazzocchi has 25 years of experience bringing new medical technologies and devices to market. With extensive senior management, operational and financing experience, he has founded several med-tech companies.
Most recently, Mazzocchi was managing director of Accuitive Medical Ventures (Duluth, Georgia) a venture capital fund that specializes in early-stage medical technology investments.
Before that he was interim CEO and chairman of Triton BioSystems (Chelmsford, Massachusetts), a company developing a nanotechnology-based approach to cancer therapy, and co-founder and CEO of Image-Guided Neurologics (Melbourne, Florida), an early-stage neurosurgical device company scooped up by Medtronic (Minneapolis) in August 2005.
He also was founder, president/CEO of Microvena (Minneapolis), a publicly traded device company now known as ev3 (Plymouth, Minnesota).
Mazzocchi's career also includes founding roles at numerous other start-up medical companies, including Vascular Science, which was acquired by St. Jude Medical (St. Paul, Minnesota); CytoGenesis, which was bought by BresaGen (Adelaide, Australia/Athens, Georgia); and Thermonix (Minneapolis).
He began his career in sales and marketing at Cook Critical Care (Bloomington, Indiana). He holds about 40 medical device patents and has published numerous scientific and medical journal articles.
Mazzocchi said his fascination and desire to do more with neurologics is part of what attracted him to NovaVision. The company's location in Florida, where he now lives, also was a factor.
According to NovaVision, its Vision Restorative Therapy (VRT) is the only FDA-cleared, non-invasive medical device that can enhance vision in people who have been left partially blind due to stroke or brain trauma. It is offered at neurological, eye and rehabilitation centers across the U.S.
Treatment consists of comprehensive diagnostic testing that allows specialists to map the seeing and non-seeing areas of vision and create a customized therapy that participants perform daily for six to seven months. Patients gradually improve their vision through the repeated detection of a specific pattern of optical stimulation directed at the border between the seeing and blind areas of the visual field.
FDA-cleared in 2003, NovaVision's VRT devices work by enhancing neuroplasticity – the brain's ability to adapt and form new connections to compensate for injury, the company said.
NovaVision said VRT is based on more than 10 years of research, with clinical studies published in Nature Medicine, Neurology and the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. Data from a recent retrospective study showed that more than 70% of patients who underwent VRT for an initial six-month treatment period posted measurable improvements in their vision, the company noted.
As the new CEO, Mazzocchi is responsible for leveraging the company's technology to find new channels of growth to ensure that patients with impaired vision have access to the company's VRT.
"I've watched NovaVision build strong momentum over the past several years and emerge as a leading company in the area of vision-restoration therapy," he said. "I'm excited to build on the progress already established. There is recently published data confirming the neuroscience behind VRT, interest within the U.S. veterans' healthcare system for providing VRT to American soldiers, and reimbursement efforts. Most important, I'm honored to lead the team of intelligent and passionate employees who are dedicated to improving the lives of millions of stroke and traumatic brain injury survivors living with impaired vision."
Mazzocchi said his vision for the company is to expand its focus to impact more patients and go beyond its current center approach to have more of a patient-centric approach.
He said short-term goals for the company include continuing to pursue CMS reimbursement, further development of a new product which would include more of a head-mounted display with virtual goggles, and initiating new clinical studies for additional applications of NovaVision's technology.
"Longer term, we have to assess the company's direction with potential strategic partners, we want to have a global impact, a greater impact in Europe, we may form an alliance or merger with another company," Mazzocchi said.
NovaVision founder Navroze Mehta will serve as vice chairman of the board. "I am excited about the role Rudy will play in leading the company into the future," Mehta said. "His outstanding experiences will allow NovaVision to continue to grow and greatly expand the accessibility to patients with impaired vision."