Campus: Old Westbury Major: Master of Business Administration
From NYIT Magazine, Spring 2009:
Michael Klein (M.B.A. ’87) recalls a meeting of the American Medical Association in 2000 when government officials were discussing where to allocate funds for medicare payments to new technologies. The problem, Michael notes, was that the room was filled with older men who apportioned significantly more money to prostate cancer than to breast cancer.
“It was an injustice,” he says.
That moment inspired Michael to find new ways to help the millions who suffer from breast cancer, the second-leading cause of death for women. Today, as the president and CEO of Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Xoft Inc., he has pioneered a safe and effective radiation therapy that has revolutionized patient care, particularly in the area of women’s oncology care.
“We can now deliver radiation therapy anywhere in the world, including the same medical centers where patients get regular treatment,” says Michael. Xoft’s Axxent Electronic Brachytherapy System irradiates cancerous tissue by using a special balloon that contains “the world’s smallest x-ray tube by a factor of 100.” After the balloon is inserted into the breast cavity, a curative (non-radioactive) dose of ionizing radiation is deployed.
“One difference between this therapy and conventional techniques is that this takes one week whereas the others take six to eight weeks,” he explains. In addition, the Axxent system’s concentrated radiation dose rapidly dissipates after hitting the targeted cancer. Therefore, shielded rooms are not required and, in many cases, the spouse can actually be in the treatment room with the clinician and patient. Since the miniaturized x-ray source stops at pre-planned increments within the breast cavity, radiation is precisely delivered while reducing exposure to healthy tissue.
The technology is now used in more than 70 hospitals, says Michael, and the hardware used to perform the treatment can be transported in small vehicles to hundreds of medical treatment facilities. The company expects to triple its installed base in 2009.
Michael’s path to success in Silicon Valley started at home in Baldwin, N.Y. The son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, he was taught at a young age to embrace opportunity. His father, a hairdresser, “made sure his son got the entrepreneurial spirit,” says Michael, who knew at 18 that he wanted to be a CEO. “I took on every job I could.”
After teaching high school social studies in his hometown and training executives at General Electric, in the mid-1980s Michael looked to find an industry that had growth potential and limited foreign competition. Health care was an obvious choice, given that the U.S. population is living longer due to improvements in science and medicine. But before he could fulfill his dreams of sitting at the CEO’s desk, he attended NYIT to pursue his master’s degree in business administration.
“What I liked about NYIT was that the professors were working professionals,” says Michael. “I could tap into them to solve my own real-world business issues.”
After graduation, he worked for medical supplier Beckton-Dickinson and then headed to the West Coast in 1996 to work for Varian, a leading producer of radiation oncology equipment, and then for R2 Technology, a breast cancer detection company. In 2004, he joined Xoft and since then has enjoyed seeing his product help thousands of women.
In fact, the Axxent system has been such a success that it is now used in colon, rectal, and endometrial cancer treatments. In February, it was approved for use in skin cancers. On the horizon: expanding the therapy to lung, brain, prostate, head, and spinal treatments and offering the Axxent technology to a larger international community later this year.
The technology garnered a 2008 R&D Magazine R&D 100 Award and took top honors. The accolade recognizes significant technological achievements and products that leapfrog current technology. “It’s been hard to keep up with the demand,” says Michael.