Media Interview: Eric Fetters, The Herald

ericfetters.jpgEric Fetters is an experienced business writer who has been covering the medical device and biotechnology industries for over five years. He currently works on staff as a reporter for The Herald, the paper of record for the northernmost counties of Seattle’s metro area. Med Tech Sentinel recently spoke with Eric about a small town’s not-so-small med tech sector.

The areas north of Seattle aren’t as well known for medical technology as regions like New York, Southern California and Boston. Can you tell us a bit about the med tech community in your region?
Bothell, WA, has thousands of people working in the ultrasound sector. Philips Medical Systems has its world headquarters for ultrasound technology in Bothell and is one of Snohomish County’s largest private employers. Within a mile away is SonoSite, which dominates the hand-carried ultrasound market. Verathon, a growing company that makes application-specific ultrasound devices, also is there, along with some smaller ultrasound-related startups. Bothell also is home to Cardiac Science, a maker of defibrillators. Medtronic-owned Physio-Control employs hundreds in nearby Redmond.

Some of these companies are homegrown: Cardiac Science’s predecessor, Quinton Cardiology, was launched in Seattle in the 1960s. Other companies are attracted by the educated workforce, the existing cluster of medical tech firms and reputed research institutions such as the University of Washington. The region’s quality of life usually makes it easy for these companies to attract qualified people.

Read on for full interview.

It’s sometimes hard for smaller companies to get media attention. What kinds of things do you look for when deciding to cover a smaller medical technology company?

We like to cover the small companies that are doing something unique, that have a niche we think is both understandable and cool for our readers. We have a local company, Pro-Tech Services, that makes sensors and other diagnostic devices for sleep laboratories. This company began in [the founder’s] basement, so it has a classic startup story, and is now well known in its odd little niche. Aculight, which also is in Bothell, is testing the use of its lasers for nerve stimulation, which could one day help patients with Parkinson’s and other conditions. It’s that gee-whiz, life-changing use of technology that fascinates me and makes for a good story. We also like writing about where locally developed medical technology is showing up around the globe, from the use of SonoSite ultrasound systems in Iraq to the company’s cameos on Grey’s Anatomy and other TV shows.

What’s one thing you wish emerging medical technology companies were better at that would make your job easier?
Emerging and small medical tech companies often don’t have professional PR people, so they often either don’t communicate with the press at all or, on the other extreme, pepper us with press releases to tout any small development in the company. I’d rather get too many press releases than not hear about potential stories at all, but companies shouldn’t then take it personally if we give their news short shrift. We get lots of tips and press releases every day; just because we may ignore tidbits of news from a company sometimes doesn’t mean we’re not interested in the company in general. Also, when in doubt, keep press releases too short rather than too long. If it’s too long, we probably won’t read it all. If it’s too short and we want to know more, we’ll call you.

What sector of medical technology is hot right now?
It’s amazing to me the new applications being researched for ultrasound technology, as I pay the most attention to that. Here are three local examples of that technology being tested for novel things: LipoSonix is trying to use ultrasound for non-invasive body sculpting; Ekos Corp. is developing ultrasound-assisted catheters to infuse drugs and contrast agents into the body; and Ultreo, a University of Washington spin-off, has just unveiled an ultrasound-assisted electric toothbrush. Meanwhile, the advances in image quality and sensitivity of traditional ultrasound keeps leaping ahead at places like Philips and SonoSite.

The comments are closed.