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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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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.

Thoratec Buys Heartware to Expand LVAD Market

Thoratec's 34% increase in the revenue for 2008 was largely due to the introduction of its left ventricular assist device HeartMate II, a small axial flow pump weighing only 12 oz. while previous devices weighed three pounds. It took more than seventeen years for the HeartMate II to wend its way through development to the marketplace success that it is today, and that's not unusual in the LVAD space. But now, next generation LVADs with advantages are already nipping at Thoratec's heels. Thoratec's solution: consolidation. On February 13, Thoratec announced that it would acquire publicly-traded Australian LVAD company HeartWare International for $282 million, half in stock and half in cash.

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