DURHAM, N.C. — After a bidding war, Quill Medical, a company built around patented technology that replaces standard stitches and sutures, is being sold.

Quill, which was launched in 1999 by Gregory Ruff, an MD and a member of the Duke University Department of Surgery for 17 years, and Matthew Megaro, a former executive with Trimeris, is being acquired by Angiotech Pharmaceuticals in a deal worth $40 million in cash up front. Other milestone payments will be made in the future based on product sales, according to Megaro.

“I’m a little heartbroken,” Megaro told WRAL Local Tech Wire. “It’s like leaving your baby daughter at the altar when she gets married. But this deal is good for the technology and good for the investors.”

Ruff and Megaro, who knew each other as neighbors, decided to launch the company based on Ruff’s ideas about using barbs to hold tissue together rather than using sutures to tie knots. Megaro had left his position at Trimeris but ended a brief retirement to launch the new venture.

Angiotech is based in Vancouver, Canada. The deal was announced Thursday.

Angiotech, which recently acquired the U.S. based distributor of Quill’s products, won a bidding war for Quill.

“It was competitive,” Megaro said. “One company actually offered more cash up front.” Angiotech offered better opportunities for longer-term gain in terms of milestone payments, Megaro added.

Quill did not identify the other bidders. However, the company’s advisory board includes representatives from several major pharmaceutical companies such as Merck and Johnson & Johnson.

Quill, which is privately held, has received six patents and has five more pending for its barbed suture technology. Ruff invented the self-anchoring, or barbed, techniques while at Duke where he served as director of the Craniomaxillofacial Trauma Service and director of the Cleft Palate Board. Ruff left Duke four years ago and now operates a private practice in Chapel Hill. He remains chairman of Quill and works with the company on technology and product development. Ruff also travels extensively to train doctors in how to use Quill’s technology.

Ruff will continue as an advisor and instructor for Angiotech after the deal is closed, Megaro said.

The deal includes all of Quill’s technology and intellectual property.

Quill’s products are called “Contour Threads”. They were first approved for sale by the Food and Drug Administration in October of 2004. Ruff had worked more than 10 years in developing the technology.

Surgical Specialties, a subsidiary of Angiotech, marketed and sold Quill’s products. Angiotech acquired Surgical Specialties earlier this year.

“This acquisition allows us to capitalize on all of the exciting potential applications of Quill’s technology across all fields, which will benefit our growing aesthetic surgery and wound closure franchises,” said Pete Molinaro, president of the Surgical Specialties division, in a statement. “We look forward to rapidly developing these applications and getting them quickly into the hands of our growing sales and distribution network.”

The deal is expected to close in the third quarter.

Quill has 12 employees. Megaro said Angiotech plans to invest heavily in research and development of Quill’s products and that he expects most if not all Quill’s employees to be retained.

Quill Medical: www.quillmedical.com