Ceci Martinez assembles a heart catheter ablation device at Xeridiem Medical Devices, at 4700 S. Overland Drive. The company makes silicone-rubber-based catheters, chest tubes and similar items.

If you've ever had medical treatment involving a feeding tube or a urinary catheter - wince - it may well have been made right here in Tucson by Xeridiem Medical Devices.

But even if you're a doctor, you may have never seen or heard the name Xeridiem, or its prior name, MRI Medical.

Xeridiem specializes in silicone-rubber-based medical devices, but rather than market its own branded products, the company specializes in developing and manufacturing products for other firms.

"Never have we branded a product, it's always a contract-type of manufacturing arrangement," said Joseph Lee, its president.

The company's founder and original owners "left the selling up to the big national medical companies who have established sales forces and a broader understanding of the clinical need," said Lee, who joined the 35-year-old company in 2005.

It's a business model that serves the company well, Lee said, as Xeridiem makes a major push to expand its markets after its acquisition by a British industrial company last year.

MRI Medical was acquired in July 2010 by Fenner PLC, a maker of industrial polymer products including conveyor belts and seals with more than $1 billion in annual revenues. Fenner had been looking to diversify, and MRI Medical founder and owner Robert Kelliher - a pioneer in silicone molding for medical devices - had decided to retire and put the company on the market, Lee said.

Now, backed with new capital and sporting the new name since February, Xeridiem is expanding its product offerings and local operations, Lee said.

The Tucson company already is a major maker of silicone-rubber medical devices.

Xeridiem makes catheters and similar devices for several top companies - Boston Scientific is among the clients it can mention by name - and has produced more than 22 million medical devices for use worldwide at its south-side Tucson operation.

Besides manufacturing for big companies, the company caters to startup firms with promising new ideas.

"We think of ourselves as a silent partner, helping medical-device companies bring their products to market," said Renae Moomjian, Xeridiem vice president of business development.

One such entrepreneurial collaboration has been especially noteworthy.

In April, Xeridiem was a recipient of a Medical Design Excellence Award from Medical Device and Diagnostic Industry magazine, for a new type of self-clearing chest drainage tube for surgery patients.

The PleuraFlow chest tube, which uses a magnetically guided inner wire to clear blockages, was the brainchild of Dr. Ed Boyle, a cardiothoracic surgeon and CEO of Clear Catheter Systems in Bend, Ore.

Xeridiem carried Boyle's patented idea from an industrial design by another firm to a more refined, manufacturable design.

The resulting product, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in December, eliminates the cost and pain of replacing clogged tubes.

Boyle said Xeridiem was the only company he found that could help him take his idea from concept to market. "They've got a team that really embraces that early startup culture," he said, citing Lee and Moomjian.

While other companies could make parts of the device, Xeridiem was the only one that offered an end-to-end manufacturing process, Boyle added.

For a time, Xeridiem also handled all the logistics for Boyle's company, including sales, invoicing and inventory and delivery.

"It's a pretty dynamic business model when you can enable a thought leader to bring a device like this to market with no employees whatsoever," Lee said.

Another new Xeridiem product is a special catheter to perform a procedure to treat atrial fibrillation, an irregular beating of the heart linked to stray electrical signals.

Xeridiem helped North Carolina-based nContact Inc. develop and manufacture its catheter, which uses heat to essentially burn a layer of heart tissue to block errant electrical pulses. That device is approved in Europe but still awaiting U.S. approvals.

The company also has expanded its urology product line, making a catheter that treats enlarged prostates with heat for a Pennsylvania company.

Lee says the company, which employs about 130 people, expects relatively flat sales this year but expects to grow 20 percent annually in the next two or three years.

He said the University of Arizona has been a major source of technical talent but he's working more closely with the UA to help it train students in the specialized skills the company needs.

"It's very difficult to hire, because we're getting more specialized in the resources we need," he said, adding that he expects to add "many more" production jobs.


Made in Tucson is an occasional series about local companies that make things, how they're made, and the people who make them.

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Contact Assistant Business Editor David Wichner at dwichner@azstarnet.com or 573-4181.