MINNETONKA, Minnesota — NeoChord Inc. has raised at least $2.8 million to help it continue to develop a novel way of enabling surgeons to repair bad mitral valves in patients’ hearts.
The Minnetonka-based company supplies artificial chordae tendineae– the thread-like tissues that anchor the leaflets of the mitral valve to heart muscle — and the technique and tools that enable surgeons to implant the chords. Rather than repair a mitral valve through highly invasive open-heart surgery, surgeons using NeoChord’s technology can implant the artificial chords with a probe-like device through a small incision in the chest.
John Seaberg, chairman and chief executive of NeoChord, describes how his company’s technology works in a video posted at YouTube: “It’s going to go up and grab a moving leaflet on a beating heart. It throws a stitch, which is the artificial cord, through that leaflet,” Seaberg explains the demonstration in the video.
“And the interesting thing here is that … the heart is still beating … When [the doctor] has the appropriate tension, the appropriate length on that new artificial chord, he’s able to see clearly on that trans-esophageal [echocardiogram] that he has cured that patient’s mitral regurgitation. When he gets the appropriate length, ties it down, and the patient is taken care of at that point.”
The deceivingly simple technology is an alternative to open-heart surgery, which requires that the breast bone be sawed in half, the rib cage spread and the patient’s heart temporarily stopped, Seaberg said. While the traditional surgery offers ”a very effective repair” of severe mitral valve regurgitation or back flow, it is highly invasive.
“The problem is, there are a number of patients who are either too healthy — meaning their mitral regurgitation is not causing them to be sick enough that you as a surgeon or the patient are willing to undergo a highly invasive procedure — or they’re too sick to tolerate the rigors of open-heart surgery,” Seaberg said during the video.
Early results of using the technology have been positive: “We’ve got two patients who have been treated at the Mayo Clinic who are a year-and-a-half on one patient and two years on the other patient that have had their mitral valve regurgitation totally fixed using this technology,” Seaberg said. “So it’s a great head start and a great confidence builder that when we go into a feasibility trial and ultimately into a pivotal trial, that we will get the kind of clinical results we hope for.”
NeoChord had raised $2.79 million of a $4.5 million offering of equities, options and convertible preferred debt as of June 22, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Presumably, the company would use the money to get it through a feasibility trial, which was planned to start in late 2008, to more definitive clinical trials of its technology. Seaberg was not available for comment Monday.
In the video, Seaberg said he served Guidant Corp. for 10 years in several sales and marketing vice president spots. According to a profile at Forbes.com, Seaberg left Guidant’s cardiac surgery and rhythm management units, now part of Boston Scientific Corp., in 2006. Seaberg also appears to be a principal at seed-stage investment firm Pelegrin Partners in Wayzata, Minn.
The technique of chordal repair has been around for about 30 years, Seaberg said in the video. While some competing technologies try to repair prolapsed mitral valves by “working a little more around the edges,” NeoChord goes ”directly to the source of the problem: a ruptured or elongated chord. And we’re replacing that, fixing the prolapsing leaflet and eliminating the mitral regurgitation,” he said.
Seaberg said he believes his company has convincing arguments for hospitals and investors. Seaberg estimates the market for minimally invasive mitral valve repair technologies to be between $1 billion and $2.5 billion a year.
“We actually think we represent a profit opportunity for the hospital,” Seaberg said. ”There’s a strong likelihood that the length of stay will drop rather dramatically with the use of our technology. Today, the … typical length of stay for a chordal repair/mitral valve repair kind of procedures is in the neighborhood of six to eight days. And our surgeons are telling us that with a lateral thoracotomy on a beating heart, the length of stay would probably be down in the one- to two-day length of stay.”