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Business Observer Friday, Jan. 2, 2015 7 years ago

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A decision made a decade ago helped a medical products firm fine-tune its focus. The move could pay off in 2015.
by: Mark Gordon Managing Editor

The fragmented medical diagnostic testing industry has lots of potential breakthrough areas — a blessing and a curse for Dr. Robert Sambursky.

A Sarasota-based ophthalmologist and entrepreneur, Sambursky, CEO and chairman of RPS Diagnostics, faced that hurdle a decade ago. “We had to decide what our level of focus would be,” says Sambursky. “It's too broad to do everything.”

The firm decided to concentrate on two areas: infectious and inflammatory diseases. Now, with three major products, 20 patents and about 50 more pending, the move to hyper-focus could be a big asset for RPS in 2015. The Lakewood Ranch-based company has about 55 employees and assembles its products in-house.

Two products are for infectious eye conditions: AdenoPlus tests for conjunctivitis, or pink eye, and InflammaDry tests for dry eye. Both tests can produce results within 10 minutes.

Beyond those tests, a major focus for RPS in 2015 will be FebriDx, its latest product. Also a 10-minute test, FebriDx uses a finger-stick blood sample. A nurse or lab tech can do it in a patient's initial workup.

FebriDx, which received approval for sale in Europe in October, can differentiate between viral or bacterial respiratory infections. The difference is key because antibiotics only work against a bacterial infection. And the issue of overprescribing antibiotics has recently received some national attention: Multiple agencies, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, warn too much antibiotics will make some resistant. “We think the FebriDx test will bring antibiotics stewardship to the point of care,” says RPS spokeswoman Laura Lovejoy.

The next step for FebriDx is to build sales in Europe and go through the regulatory process with the Food and Drug Administration in the United States. The product is currently in the clinical trial phase stateside, a precursor to the FDA.

RPS has momentum from other areas, beyond products. For instance, the firm received $28 million in debt financing in October from New York-based private equity firm OrbiMed, which concentrates on life sciences. The loan, according to a release, will “allow RPS significant flexibility as it continues to grow and advance toward profitability.”

A key use of the money, Sambursky says, will be to develop a national sales team that can quickly bring AdenoPlus and InflammaDry into new markets. “This allows us to build a dedicated sales force for eye care professionals,” Sambursky says. “We need a highly trained sales force.”

Sambursky says RPS will likely have 10-20 new salespeople by the end of the first quarter. He projects annual sales will grow by at least 100% in 2015 with the sales team in place. He declines to elaborate on specific sales figures or projections.

Sambursky is from a family of ophthalmologists, an eye-doctor clan that includes his brother and father. Sambursky and some family members co-founded the firm in 2004, when they bought technology for the eye tests from a German biotech company. The Samburskys spent about $100,000 in family money and savings in the early stages.

Rob Sambursky now balances RPS with his medical practice, where he sees patients at the Manatee-Sarasota Eye Clinic. Most of his time lately has been with RPS, given the company's recent momentum.

“My underlying passion for both my business and medical practice stems from my desire to provide the best possible patient care,” Sambursky says. “While taking care of patients is very important to me, RPS provides a way to positively impact health care on a global scale.”

— Follow Mark Gordon on Twitter @markigordon

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