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Houston Biotech Nets $10M to Develop Circulatory Support Device

Xconomy Texas — 

Procyrion, a Houston biotech developing a device to treat chronic heart failure, has raised $10 million.

The company has built a circulatory support pump named the Aortix that essentially serves as a crutch for the heart, aiding the organ to push more blood through the circulatory system and to vital organs. The device, which is thinner than a pencil, can be implanted in the aorta of heart failure patients via a catheter threaded through the femoral artery.

The investment was made by investors including Dallas-based Scientific Health Development and a group put together by Fannin Innovation Studio, which has housed Procyrion from its early days. The funding will be largely used to pay for first-in-human trials during the first half of next year, with a plan to conduct a clinical pilot study in 2017, says Ben Hertzog, Procyrion’s CEO.

Procyrion’s device is designed as an alternative or an intermediary treatment to the left-ventricular assist devices (LVAD) currently used to treat patients with congestive heart failure. Currently, U.S. doctors implant about 4,000 of the LVADs a year. The devices take blood from the heart’s lower chambers and pump it to the rest of the body.

But installing the LVAD devices requires invasive open-heart surgery, and they have other disadvantages. They can be too large for smaller people, and have caused strokes in 11 percent of patients who receive them.

Procyrion’s thesis is that Aortix, which is inserted through a catheter in about 10 minutes in an outpatient procedure, can help to take the load off of an ailing heart at a fraction of the cost of surgery.

William Cohn is the director of the Center for Technology and Innovation at Texas Heart Institute and a colleague of Reynolds Delgado, who invented the Aortix. Cohn, a fellow cardiologist-entrepreneur who has advised the startup group, describes Aortix as a crutch that can prevent a weak heart from getting weaker.

“If you have a person who is limping along, they have arthritis of the ankle, that arthritis gets worse and the ankle falls apart,” he told me in a previous interview. “But give them a crutch or a cane earlier in the illness, the ankle will maybe never ever get that bad.”