I’m really excited to share with FutureDerm.com readers my exclusive interview with Melissa Burstein, co-founder, EVP, and Board of Directors Member of Ra Medical Systems. As one of the few female executives in med-tech who are leading the charge in the industry’s global innovation, Melissa is not only exciting for me to interview as a female entrepreneur, but also as a fellow skincare pioneer.
Ra Medical’s game-changing laser, Pharos, has been proven to have very high rates of efficacy for a number of skin conditions, including vitiligo, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, and more.
Melissa has been with Ra Medical since its inception in 2002. She and co-founder Dean Irwin launched the company with the mission of designing and developing excimer lasers as tools for the successful treatment of vascular and dermatological diseases.
How Do You Feel About Your Role With Ra Medical Systems?
I’m proud to be the Executive Vice President of a medical device company that I co-founded 16 years ago. I love my industry and the innovative changes it creates that improve people’s lives around the world. I feel it’s my calling to provide effective treatment for conditions like vitiligo and psoriasis that is easily accessible and safe for patients.
Ra Medical Systems started working to close the gender gap early, since we had both a female and male co-founder, by implementing strategies designed to ensure that everyone, male and female, has a voice and equal responsibility.
Tell Us a Little About Pharos
Ra is the ancient Egyptian deity identified with the sun. What better name to give to technology that emits laser created “sunlight” to create profound healing effects on affected skin? Pharos was launched in October 2004 and has since seen its way into hundreds of dermatologist’s offices across the country and around the world. Pharos is a great tool that can be used to treat chronic skin diseases including vitiligo, psoriasis, and atopic dermatitis.
What makes our technology stand out is that our proprietary hand piece features an integrated adjustable spot size and aiming beam so that the physician can target just the diseased tissue while avoiding exposing healthy tissue to the UV light. The beam can be easily contoured to accommodate the shape of the lesion being treated. And because of the nature of the hand piece, Pharos is able to reach hard-to-treat areas that other forms of light therapy cannot reach. Because of the flat-top design, the beam is able to deliver uniform dosing with no hot spots. Combined, that all makes it faster and safer treatment than other forms of phototherapy, or light therapy.
It is among the lightest excimer lasers currently marketed and has a small footprint. It easily fits into most treatment rooms and is incredibly maneuverable.
Pharos is manufactured right here in the United States in our 32,000-square-foot facility in Carlsbad, California alongside its younger sister laser, DABRA, for vascular diseases.
How Effective Is Pharos?
Pharos can be used to treat a variety of chronic skin diseases including vitiligo, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, and leukoderma. Studies have shown it to be incredibly effective, providing a safe and selective approach to treating these conditions. Studies have consistently proven laser therapy to be more effective than other standard treatments.
Tell Us A Little About How Pharos Works
Pharos is a very powerful xenon-chloride excimer laser that emits a single wavelength: 308 nm ultraviolet B. It can deliver this ultraviolet light to localized areas of the skin.
Excimer lasers use a combination of a noble gas and a reactive gas; in this case xenon and chlorine. When we apply the correct electrical stimulation, a xenon-chloride pseudo-molecule is created. This pseudo-molecule has a short life – only a few nanoseconds or billionths of a second – and then decomposes into laser ultraviolet light photons.
When delivered to diseased skin, the light stimulates T-cell apoptosis, providing an immunosuppressive effect. T-cells are important in helping to protect your body from foreign invaders. But when things go wrong, such as is the case in chronic skin diseases like vitiligo and psoriasis, the body’s immune system attacks itself. Creating apoptosis, or the natural cellular death, of these immune cells through the use of Pharos can effectively slow down or stop the progression of the disease.
How Do You Think Pharos Differs From Other Treatments?
Pharos can be used to treat a variety of chronic skin diseases, including psoriasis, vitiligo, atopic dermatitis, and leukoderma . Previously, these dermatological disorders were treated with topical ointment and creams such as steroids and vitamin D derivatives. These typically require frequent ongoing application. Pharmaceutical treatments can be associated with systemic side effects. Phototherapy is cost effective and avoids the immunosuppressive effects that often accompany traditional and biologic-based systemic therapies.
Treatment with Pharos is similar in effectiveness to traditional light therapy, but it works in fewer sessions with stronger, more targeted doses of light that can reach deeper into the basal layer of the affected skin. Because the hand piece is easy to maneuver, it’s great at reaching lesions in hard-to reach areas like the elbows, knees, palms, soles of the feet, and scalp.
Some studies have found that most people who are treated with lasers see real improvements in their skin that can last anywhere from several months to a year. While it does take a few weeks for improvement to become noticeable, results can usually be seen within eight to 10 sessions for psoriasis patients. Dermatologists are able to see within the first four weeks of treatment whether or not it is working for vitiligo.
With Pharos, because the laser light never touches the surrounding skin, it reduces the risk of UV radiation exposure. It’s non-thermal so it doesn’t cause thermal burns to the skin, and it’s non-ablative, so there is no resurfacing of the skin.
What Can Pharos Do for People Suffering Skin Diseases like Vitiligo, Psoriasis, and Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema)?
In the case of vitiligo, which is an autoimmune condition causing the skin to turn white due to the loss of pigment from the melanocytes, the targeted laser therapy can kill the T-cells that are causing the disease and can stimulate melanocytes to make more pigment, effectively “tanning” those areas.
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disorder that causes cells to rapidly accumulate, affecting the surface of the skin resulting in scales and red, itchy, painful patches. Atopic dermatitis is a chronic skin disease resulting in itchy, red, swollen, and cracked skin. With both psoriasis and atopic dermatitis, the laser can cause the bonds that are producing the inflammatory cytokines to break, also killing the T-cells.
What Does Treatment with Pharos Feel Like? Is It Painful? Is There Any Recovery Time?
Laser treatments are performed right in the dermatologist’s office, taking only a couple of minutes. Patients are given laser glasses to protect their eyes. Some feel slight warmth at the site. There is no pain or discomfort and because of the targeted therapy, there is little to no downtime following treatment.
Where Can Patients Go To Find Pharos?
Treatment with our Pharos laser is usually covered by your insurance company. Your dermatologist may already have one of our units on hand. If they do not already, their dermatologist can contact us directly through our website or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also contact us through the website to locate a dermatologist in your area that is already using this incredible technology.
Do You Have Any Last Words For Any Female Aspiring Entrepreneurs?
We all need to play a role fostering environments to cultivate female leaders in all workplaces. Women need to showcase their accomplishments and speak up when they have answers or solutions. Women must also demand answers for their continued professional education and development. If we take the time to mentor young women, they will take our industry further than we ever envisioned.
Having worked in health care for almost two decades, my conviction is that companies with diverse viewpoints, experiences, and talents deliver superior innovations that benefit health and wellness. The gender mix cannot be out of balance with the population if we truly want to deliver better health for all.
Thank you, Melissa Burstein!