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Where Are They Now? Start-Up Revisits Cardiac Assist Companies

This article was originally published in Start Up

Executive Summary

The market for cardiac assist devices has, in the past, been focused on end-stage patients waiting for a heart transplant, a niche market. But now, growth is accelerating in all sectors, from acute cardiac support to the long-term support of end-stage heart failure patients. Start-Up revisits CardiacAssist, CircuLite, and MicroMed.

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Newly-Private MicroMed: Is it Destined for Greater Markets?

MicroMed has the smallest LVAD on the market (outside of the US), which makes it suitable for the sought-after destination therapy market. The MicroMed LVAD has been implanted in more then 450 patients, which makes it second only to Thoratec in terms of the number of implants. But it hasn't been easy. To get to this point, MicroMed chewed through large helpings of money-seed funding, four rounds of venture capital, and a bank financing, before going public in 2005 through a reverse merger with a shell company. By the end of 2007, MicroMed needed to raise money on top of a large accumulated deficit. Rescue came from private equity group E-Wilson, which took the company private.

CircuLite: Partial Support Enables Patient Management

There is a large group of chronic heart failure patients--more than two million of them worldwide-who are resistant to or have failed drugs or devices, but aren't yet eligible for the cardiac assist devices approved for end-stage patients. Back in 2006, when START-UP first spoke with CircuLite, the company was after those patients, with a small pump that, in providing partial circulatory support, would be in an entirely different category than LVADs. Today, on only a bit more than $36 million in funding, CircuLite has developed the Synergy Pocket Micro-pump, a tiny pump designed to provide partial assist to the heart. Synergy has completed its first-in-man study, and is nearing completion of its European clinical trial supporting a CE mark.

CardiacAssist Builds a Bridge to the Next Bridge

CardiacAssist operates in the market for acute heart failure, with TandemHeart a pump designed to reverse multi-organ failure, to help the heart recover, or at the very least, keep patients alive so they can move on to the next therapeutic option. A lot has happened since Start-Up spoke with CardiacAssist back in 2002. The company's TandemHeart gained 510(k) clearance in 2003, and by January 2009, more than 1,500 TandemHeart procedures had been performed. The pace of adoption is accelerating. Now, with sales of $10 million, and a steady 40% growth rate, the company is no longer dependent upon venture capital.

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