Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Entrepreneur finds fertile new niche

Seeking out a new niche after more than 25 years building and selling dialysis companies, health-care entrepreneur Joseph A. Cashia settled on the baby business.
With other former executives of his most recent company, National Renal Alliance, Cashia formed Vivere Health LLC to target the $4-billion-a-year U.S. fertility services market.

It's an area in which demand for services is driven by couples with fertility issues, some of whom may have delayed pregnancies to pursue their careers. And now husband and wife view in vitro fertilization — in which the egg is fertilized by sperm outside the woman's body — as one of their options.

Franklin-based Vivere's business model is similar to Cashia's former dialysis companies' in that both involve partnering with doctors.

Vivere bears most of the costs of building the surgery centers and labs, with physicians contributing a smaller share based on their ownership stakes. Profits from the surgery centers and labs are split between Vivere and the participating reproductive endocrinologists.

The goal is to capture the fees in-house so doctors won't have to pay for services at outside labs, hospitals or clinics.

"Our goal is to link the practice to the lab to the surgery center — to pull all three of the components together," Cashia said. He said Vivere also intends to help its joint venture partners recruit additional specialists as needed.

Vivere got its start through a partnership of Cashia and his financial backer, private equity firm LLR Partners LLC of Philadelphia, with two fertility specialists at the Houston Fertility Institute to buy the affiliated Piney Point Surgical Center and Houston Fertility Laboratory.

Expansion is planned

Last week, a reproductive endocrinologist who relocated to Austin opened a practice with Vivere's help. There are plans for a lab to open in August and outpatient surgical suites roughly a year later.

With his eye on expansion, Cashia initially hopes to tap into Houston fertility specialists Drs. Jimmy Gill and Gus Haddad's wealth of industry connections, their reputation for a strong success rate of fertilizations (in the top 10 nationally) and a patient-friendly approach.

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