Vikram Janardhan does not have a medical background, but that didn’t stop him from trying to find a way to lessen the effects of stroke. He risked his life savings to invent a medical device that has the power to help millions of stroke victims. His technology can quickly remove blood clots in the brain. Janardhan talks about the challenges of entrepreneurship, what lead him to create this groundbreaking invention and the personal sacrifices he made along the way.
So, tell us about the device. What does it do? How does it work?
Stroke effects 800,000 victims every year — Americans. Around the world, 15 million. Every 45 seconds, someone dies of stroke. Someone has a stroke every 3 to 4 minutes. 88 percent of the time, it is a blockage in the pipe. It is a blood clot that prevents nutrients and glucose from getting to the rest of the brain. So that part of the brain starts to die permanently. So we’ve got a vacuum aspiration solution that essentially is a vacuum pump that can be deployed through a catheter to the location of the clot. It is a pulsatile pump and it sucks the clot out.
The genesis for it was observing my 7-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son at a pizza place right here in Roseville. I saw them struggling to get a crushed piece of ice stuck in their straw. And they would at first suck and try to pull the clot out and then they would blow into the straw. And I ran out into the parking lot and called my brother and said, “Why don’t we create a programmable chip or software that does just that?” And he just ran with it. We knew nothing about creating programmable chips or creating pumps. We just figured it out along the way.
What makes you leave your first dream to go after the new dream that’s only been living for a couple hours?
You know, I can picture that day in my mind’s eye like it were yesterday. I prepared my brother with a whole bunch of questions about stroke treatment. And we didn’t really have any answer. Most people think that entrepreneurs start the company with an idea in mind. Ours was a desire to make a difference. A commitment and a ferocious commitment to do something about this that. The vast majority of stroke victims ended up with long term disability, in many cases death because of a clog in a pipe. I remember getting really upset saying, “We put a man on a moon, but we can’t remove a clog in a pipe? You know this is what I went to grad school for and I’m going to fix it if you will help me.” And I remember him saying, “I’m going to help you. Go ahead and do it.”