Editor’s note: BioWatch is a regular feature on Fridays in Local Tech Wire.Surgery for prostate cancer left John Miskie with an incontinence problem that no products on the market solved satisfactorily.

“So, knowing I had product development experience, he came to me and said, ‘I paid your college tuition, do something about this,” says Mark Miskie, founder and president of Charlotte’s Arcus Medical.

“Once I looked at the market and the competition, I thought, this is a business.”

The market for incontinence (inability to control bladder) products includes four million American men and 16 million American women and is growing due to the aging population. Stroke, Alzheimer’s Disease, diabetes, diuretic drugs, and giving birth can all cause incontinence problems. The reaction Miskie’s father had to currently available solutions is not untypical.

Current products have a variety of problems, ranging from discomfort to inconvenience and cost, Miskie told a business panel at the Charlotte Business, Innovation, and Growth Council’s Big Day event Wednesday. So, using a North Carolina-based textile company that will knit small batches of specialty fabric, Arcus created a three-part system designed to solve those problems.

Called AFEX, the product is an adhesive-free external collection system comprised of a loose-fitting ergonomically-shaped part made of soft, anti-micorbial, latex-free plastic. A soft, double-layered liner eliminates skin rash. A pair of boxer-style briefs holds the system in place instead of adhesive. The third part is a collection bag that allows the user to drain the contents easily.

Razor blade business model

Since several items in the $99 kit must be replaced regularly, “It’s a razor and blade business model” with recurring income from every sale, Miskie says. Still, it will cost less to use than absorbent pads often used now in care facilities, the company says.

Miskie left his executive job at John Deere and started Arcus Medical in July 2002.

The timing didn’t make raising money easy, and Mark Miskie, 38, did consulting for three months. Eventually, he raised $145,000 primarily from friends, family, and urologists to develop the product.

“As it turns out, a lot of urologists agree there’s a need for this and they were a big reason I could gather seed money to do the prototypes,” says Miskie. The company seeks $1 million in further investment to go to market and Miskie says he expects to raise it from physicians.

His father, now 68, loves the company’s first product, designed for men, and tells Mark he couldn’t do without it.

Patent expected for product

The company will receive a patent giving broad coverage to its system on January 20, Miskie says.

Miskie’s company only has one employee, but he tells Local Tech Wire that he’s on the verge of hiring a sales manager. “As we get through our market trial phase, we’ll add customer service and garment workers to produce the product internally,” he says. The company just moved into a 2000-square foot office and manufacturing space in Charlotte.

Arcus Medical plans to launch AFEX in May. “We hope to have our Web site up by March and may have some earlier regional sales,” he adds. The company projects income of $1.64 million for fiscal year 2004.

AFEX is undergoing testing on 100 patients through January at Virgina Urology in Richmond.

Miskie hopes to turn Arcus Medical into a successful medical device company with a line of complementary products. The first will be an incontinence device for the woman’s market, which is four times larger than the men’s. Then the company may develop similar products for ostomy, in which the bladder is removed and an opening is created outside the patient’s skin.

The company’s Web site launches in March. Miske can be reached at: