Gregg Scheller, BS ME ’79, launches a startup that produces instruments for cataract surgery, among other things.
Gregg Scheller, founder and CEO of Katalyst Surgical, knows about starting from scratch. In fact, as his third startup, the St. Louis surgical instrument company is a business about starting from incisions.
In 1986, Scheller, BS ME ’79, of Wildwood, Mo., invented his first ophthalmic tool; the fiber-optic disposable endoilluminator used to light the inside of the eye during retina surgery. The implement launched Advanced Surgical Products, which he sold to a group of investors in 1990. Next, he founded Synergetics Inc., which grew from a home garage operation to a $175 million NASDAQ listing by 2008.
In August 2011, Scheller and Katalyst secured a $500,000 startup loan from the Missouri Technology Corporation (MTC), a partner of the Missouri Department of Economic Development.
“Obviously, the state feels as though we’re a good bet,” says Scheller of his company that produces titanium instruments primarily for cataract surgery. “As an engineer, I realized that many instruments were being thrown away in the operating room because they were rusted, and titanium is corrosion proof.”
Scheller spent a brief period from 2008-10 at the MU College of Engineering as the director of entrepreneurship and industry partnerships. He credits the college for nurturing his problem-solving skills. Although he remembers slogging through some seemingly superfluous engineering classes as an undergrad, he stresses the value of those fundamental courses when he speaks to youngsters today — especially his two Tiger sons, Michael, BS ME ’11, and Steven, another engineer to be.
“Engineering school trains your brain to recognize a problem and go through a logical process to solve that problem,” Scheller says. “In my case, solving a problem translates into better patient care, creating jobs, employing people and me having a career that I love.”