The leading edge of innovation in medical devices is often concentrated on nifty implantable tools that a doctor can insert without a scalpel, as a less-invasive alternative to surgery. But now we’re seeing more startups, like Bothell, WA-based QuantumCor, designing devices to fix what’s broken in the body without even leaving any sort of implant behind at all.
QuantumCor’s vision is to change the way a common type of heart failure is treated, called mitral valve regurgitation. The idea is to allow doctors to heat up and tighten the loose, leaky tissue around the mitral valve that makes it hard for the heart to vigorously pump blood. CEO Vern Dahl told me about this plan, and how the company has secured the lead investor in a $10 million Series B financing, when we met the other day near the Xconomy office on Seattle’s First Hill.
The problem QuantumCor is trying to solve is the same as Kirkland, WA-based Cardiac Dimensions, so that sets up some friendly cross-town competition. Dahl insists there’s plenty of room for new contenders in this space. An estimated 3 million people in the U.S. have a loose mitral valve that allows blood to backflow into the heart. It’s a chronic condition that makes people tired and short of breath, making it hard to climb stairs, but rarely rises to the level of requiring open heart surgery.
Because the problem is so widespread, startups like Cardiac Dimensions have long sought ways to create a minimally invasive alternative like an implantable clamp or cinching device around the valve to make it pump correctly. None of these devices are currently available in the U.S., but the market for such alternatives could exceed $1.6 billion in the U.S. by 2016, according to the Millennium Research Group. While minimally invasive has traditionally been defined as catheter-guided tools like stents that prop open clogged arteries, or the Cardiac Dimensions’ wire clamp, QuantumCor wants to leapfrog ahead by shrinking tissue without implanting anything. This is the same concept driving a couple other device companies that have raised capital this year, Seattle-based Uptake Medical, and Redmond, WA-based CoAptus Medical.
“Anytime you can do a procedure and not leave something behind, it’s a plus,” Dahl says.
QuantumCor hasn’t started clinical trials of its device yet, and it still needs to raise more money to pursue its plan, so this isn’t going to appear in a hospital catheterization lab near you anytime soon. The company was formed in 2002 around some patents for using radio-frequency energy (RF), loaded on the tip of a catheter, which is aimed at the collagen tissue around the mitral valve. By using radio-frequency energy to heat up this collagen, the idea is that it will naturally shrink, causing the valve to seal properly and prevent blood from flowing back into the heart, Dahl says.
By naturally shrinking the tissue and not implanting anything, the QuantumCor device won’t create future complications for a doctor who might want to do surgery, it won’t get in the way of other devices, and it leaves open the possibility of future re-treatment, Dahl says.
Dahl has had a long career on the business side of big medical device players … Next Page »
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