Two French medical technology companies working to help people suffering from terminal or advanced heart failure announced progress in their separate efforts to commercialise their products.
CorWave, a start-up developing an implantable heart pump, has raised €35m in its third fundraising round, with €15m coming from a new EU fund aimed at supporting innovative companies.
Separately, Carmat announced that it would begin selling its artificial heart under the brand name “Aeson” in Germany and France in the second quarter, having obtained European regulatory approval in late December. The device serves as a bridge to a heart transplant for patients with irreversible end-stage heart failure.
Carmat’s shares were up almost 9 per cent in afternoon trading in Paris, valuing it at €412m.
Their progress is a sign that scientific research under way for the past decade on how to improve treatments for heart failure may finally be bearing fruit. Some 60m people suffer from the condition, according to the Global Burden of Disease Study, meaning that their hearts do not pump or fill with blood as a healthy heart does.
Treatments currently available for those with advanced disease include heart transplants or installing a heart pump known as a left ventricular assist device (LVAD). But transplants are limited by the supply of donor organs, and existing LVAD technologies marketed by Abbott Laboratories and Medtronic often lead to complications.
CorWave and Carmat both aim to provide alternative options for patients.
“Heart surgeons today will tell you that the devices need to imitate the natural functioning of the heart,” said CorWave chief executive Louis de Lillers in an interview. “That is what both CorWave and Carmat are trying to achieve in different ways by replicating the physiology of the heart.”
The EU’s investment in CorWave also marks a turning point in the region’s approach to supporting innovation: it is the first time it is directly funding promising start-ups. Traditionally it has instead acted indirectly by backing venture and private equity funds that then deploy the money.
The European Innovation Council fund aims to address Europe’s lack of success relative to the US and China in transforming start-ups with promising ideas into big international companies.
On Wednesday it announced that it had invested an initial €178m in equity financing in 42 companies in areas including health and advanced manufacturing. Another 117 companies are going through the investment evaluation process.
CorWave plans to use the new funds to make final improvements to its implantable heart pump ahead of clinical trials in humans, as well as set up a small manufacturing facility and hire more staff. It hopes to begin those clinical trials in the next year or so, first in Europe and then in the US, said Mr de Lillers.
“Our disruptive technology will represent a real improvement from current pumps so as to reduce complications and improve patients’ quality of life,” he said.