Tapping a Cure for Dry Mouth
By Tania Hershman

(Business 2.0) – What do you get when you cross a dentist with an engineer? A high-tech remedy for dry mouth.

Granted, it's not much of a punch line, but it's also no joke. In fact, the dental implant developed by Saliwell Medical Systems--an Israeli startup founded by dentist Andy Wolff and engineer Benzi Beiski--could unlock a $2 billion market.

Triggered by radiation therapy, blood-pressure medication, and autoimmune diseases, dry mouth, or xerostomia, interferes with swallowing, sleeping, and speech. But drugs to treat it often have debilitating side effects. Saliwell's implant, the Crown, is equipped with electrodes, sensors, and a 16-bit microprocessor. If the sensors detect dryness, the electrodes stimulate the lingual nerve to jump-start saliva flow.

The company hopes to have the Crown on the market by 2006. If it does, Wolff and Beiski will pocket nearly all of the profits, thanks to the clever strategy they used to launch the company. Rather than relying on venture funding, the duo landed a $2 million European Union grant for medical R&D, which meant they didn't have to give up any equity--a deal sweet enough to make any entrepreneur salivate. -- TANIA HERSHMAN