Erchonia Impacts the Area and the Industry[By Karl Kotala]
Its low-level laser therapy products can be found all over the world and have been featured on TV shows like Dr. Oz, Nightline, Good Morning America, Rachel Ray and The Doctors.
They are sold to NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL teams and players. Even singers like Jon Bon Jovi, Randy Travis and Celine Dion have used their products.
And now that rock star company, Erchonia, has moved to Melbourne.
W&J Construction recently finished work on a 20,000 square foot facility in the North Drive industrial area as part of Erchonia’s $5.3 million investment in relocating its operations to Florida. Charlie Shanks, Erchonia’s vice president for marketing and sales, said there were a number of reasons the company moved here from McKinney, Texas, including the Florida lifestyle (near the beaches) and the fact that there are a number of research sites the company works with that are based in the state.
“The combination of all those things … it just made sense for us to be here,” Shanks said. “And really, that’s what brought us to Melbourne. I know everybody says it’s this kind of unknown, quiet paradise right now, but we did notice there is a good bit of technology here and we expect there will be some nice growth here, as well. “We wanted to be out in front of that.” ▶▶
Making Connections for a Company of Firsts
Surprisingly, the company had been operating out of Melbourne for only a week or so when it found two new vendors among its neighbors.
“With all the aerospace that has been here for decades, there are a lot of really good vendors that kind of struggled when they downsized everything, but they offer quality work and we think we can take advantage of that, keeping it really close to home,” said Kevin Tucek, who co-owns the company with Steve Shanks, Charlie’s brother.
Formed in 1996 in Littleton, Colorado, Erchonia has made a name for itself by using low-level laser products in both the medical and cosmetic fields. Its products have received FDA market clearances for a number of applications including treating neck and shoulder pain and reducing post-surgery pain and chronic heel pain. Erchonia was also the first company to develop a laser for non-invasive fat reduction.
“We’ve had a lot of firsts that we’re pretty proud of,” Charlie said. “We do extensive research. We’re very proud of the double-blind, Level 1 clinical studies that we do. According to the FDA, it’s the gold standard for a medical device to prove efficacy.”
On Cutting Edge Without the Cuts
Hand-held custom pain management lasers have been made for the Kansas City Chiefs, the New York Jets and San Diego Chargers, as well as the Texas Rangers, Philadelphia 76ers and the Phoenix Coyotes. The devices have also been sold to a number of team trainers and individual players.
“Lasers non-invasively reduce pain and inflammation, so they have a very similar effect to what a drug would have, but you’re using light instead of a chemical component, so you don’t have the side effects,” Shanks explained.
“We feel pretty confident that lasers can do pretty much anything a drug can do. It’s just finding the right wave length and power to accomplish the chemical effect we’re looking for.”
Singers like Randy Travis, Celine Dion, Trent Reznor and Bon Jovi have also used the laser therapy to keep throat inflammation down.
While Erchonia has built a niche for itself in the pain management market, one of its biggest international breakthrough products came with the Zerona Medical Laser, which uses cold/soft laser technology to provide non-invasive fat reduction.
“It’s not a thermal effect, like (you would see in a) James Bond (movie),” Tucek said. “That’s what made it very unique. We cause no trauma to the body in any way. It was kind of an unusual way to approach it, to the point that when we got our FDA approval, they didn’t even have a category for this type of device. We had to go through a process called de novo, which is creating a new category of medical devices.”
Staying Close to Home
Although Erchonia has done very well internationally and could operate anywhere in the world, the company takes great pleasure in its U.S. roots and family atmosphere. In fact, of the 48 U.S.-based employees, 35 of them are related.
“We design everything in-house and we make 85 percent of all of our components,” Tucek said. “We try to keep as much in the U.S. as we possibly can, so we want to use local vendors whenever possible. That’s one of the things we pride ourselves on.”
Having a company like Erchonia relocate to the Space Coast is just another prime example of how the technology industry in Brevard County is continuing to grow.
“From laser devices to biopharmaceutical research, some of the most innovative technological advancements are finding a home on the Space Coast,” said Lynda Weatherman, president/CEO of the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast. “Erchonia will be working alongside some of the best and brightest leaders and innovative companies. We know this will be an ideal location to further their growth well into the future.”
That Growth is Already Underway
Erchonia is about to enter into two new markets – treatment for nail fungus, and the R2L, a super-thin microprocessor that can reduce your exposure to cell phone radiation by up to 70 percent by converting it to harmless light without disrupting the quality of your calls.
Though the latter is not what you would call part of Erchonia’s flagship line of lasers, it represents the company’s dedication to noticing trends and ongoing or potential issues in health care and trying to create a solution.
“It’s been an interesting market to see the diversity when you’re dealing with lasers and the effects they have on pain and inflammation,” Shanks said. “That’s (why) we’re so confident going forward with a lot of the research we’re doing, because inflammation affects every aspect of our health.
“We have a lot of ongoing projects with neurological conditions – Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, as well as concussions and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). This will require future studies, but some are underway.” ◆