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Military champion has Prytime Medical ready for prime time
November 8, 2017

Prytime Medical Devices Inc. CEO David Spencer said his company is poised to take its flagship technology to more countries around the world. GABE HERNANDEZ | SABJ

W. Scott Bailey
Senior Reporter
San Antonio Business Journal

David Spencer has taken a military idea and turned it into a company that could have global impact on trauma care.

While San Antonio is still working to find its groove in a global bioscience industry, one Alamo City entrepreneur and his company have taken an idea for saving lives on the battlefield and turned it into a commercially viable venture that could have a worldwide impact on trauma care.

In 2011, David Spencer and his wife Jennifer, along with partner Christopher Banas, put their money behind technology created by a pair of military vascular and trauma surgeons based on what they had learned in war. That technology spawned what is now Prytime Medical Devices Inc. and its flagship product — the ER-REBOA Catheter. Banas, who is still a partner in and major shareholder of Prytime, is now CEO and chairman of another biotech company, Bio2 Medical Inc.

Prytime's catheter — a balloonlike device designed for rapid, temporary occlusion of large vessels in emergency and critical care settings — is in more than 200 hospitals and more than 100 Level 1 trauma centers in the U.S. The company has secured regulatory approval to market its device in Europe and expects to soon have similar clearance in Canada and other countries.

Spencer, who is president and CEO of Prytime, has spent the last 20-plus years as an angel investor and entrepreneur. While larger bioscience companies had shown little interest in the the technology behind the ER-REBOA device, he was more motivated to help — in part because of his own background and the untapped opportunities he believes exist with regard to the level of military science and medical expertise available in San Antonio.

“I grew up in a military family," Spencer said. "My dad was a hospital administrator. That’s why we are in San Antonio.”

Prytime is now generating about $6 million in annual revenue and is exploring other potential uses for its device, such as with patients facing high-risk pregnancies.

“We are seeing a lot of demand,” Spencer said. “It’s a military need that overlaps with a large commercial market because of trauma.”

Driven by preventable deaths

All of this took a leap of faith by Spencer and others. To date, the company has secured more than $24 million from the U.S. Department of Defense and from outside investors, enabling Prytime to get its first product to physicians and patients.

“We knew early on that there were people dying, deaths that were preventable. That’s what drove us,” Spencer said. “But we also knew we had to build a real company. Otherwise, it’s just a big philanthropic effort.”

San Antonio’s top industry leaders have taken note of the impact Prytime has had on medicine and on Military City, USA — in large part because of Spencer’s early buy in. Ann Stevens, president of BioMed SA, said others outside the Alamo City are more aware of what’s happening here.

“David’s singular devotion to helping the military save the lives of wounded warriors — along with his remarkable persistence against all odds — is legendary,” Stevens said.

What Spencer has done through his work with Prytime, Stevens said, is to demonstrate to a national audience how advancements in military medicine have become a “key differentiating factor for San Antonio’s biomedical sector.”

Earlier this year, Prytime took another big step in a move to get its device to a wider market by going back to its military roots. The company struck a deal with North Carolina-based Combat Medical Systems to market its ER-REBOA device and other products it may develop to the U.S. military and the federal government.

“You dance with the one who brought you,” Spencer said.

Market size to be determined

The next step for Prytime is to build on the ER-REBOA technology with the development of a second device that would enable physicians to create partial occlusion of blood flow in a patient. The device, as Spencer describes it, would work like a dimmer switch.

No longer a startup, Prytime is evolving into a company poised to further transform health care.

“We are right on the cusp of a shift. We have proved there is a market, but we have not yet proved how big that market is,” Spencer said. “We are retooling our team and bringing in a new set of skills who can take us to the next level.”

Despite the impact Spencer has had on Prytime's growth and its development of a technology into product with international demand, he has not lost sight of its origins.

“A lot of people give me credit for inventing this device,” he said. “That’s very kind of them, but it’s actually not factual. This was a military idea.”

In 2005, Spencer sold OnBoard Software Inc., a company he founded in 1996 that provided the Department of Defense with engineering management support, for $34 million. Since then, he's worked to provide financial help to multiple companies and organizations, including the University of Texas at San Antonio.

It's the genesis of the technology behind the ER-REBOA that motivated Spencer to use Prytime as a launch pad for the device. Now, the company is working on its next potential product.

“This is where my heart is," Spencer said. "I feel blessed that we’ve had an opportunity to help out a little bit.”

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