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Cardiac device firm developing esophagus heat map moves to Cleveland

A medical device company focused on specific minimally invasive cardiac surgeries has moved from Boston to Cleveland hoping to collect $1.5 million and develop its product. Securus Medical Group is well on the way to closing that round. It received a $500,000 equity investment already, is expecting to close to another $250,000 and will likely […]

A medical device company focused on specific minimally invasive cardiac surgeries has moved from Boston to Cleveland hoping to collect $1.5 million and develop its product.

Securus Medical Group is well on the way to closing that round. It received a $500,000 equity investment already, is expecting to close to another $250,000 and will likely get $350,000 in grants from the publicly funded Global Cardiovascular Innovation Center on Cleveland Clinic’s campus, company officials said.

Securus’ technology is designed to monitor the temperature of a patient’s esophagus during atrial fibrillation treatment performed with catheter ablation: a means of using energy (often radiofrequency) to make tiny scars on the heart that prevent abnormal electrical signals that cause irregular heart rhythm. In rare occasions the heat from the radio frequency ablation used to make the scars can burn through the heart to create what’s known as an atrioesophageal fistula — an abnormal connection between the heart and esophagus that can be life threatening.

Securus’ technology would provide doctors with a real-time thermal map of the esophagus while they’re performing ablations, helping reduce the risk of fistulas.

Securus was founded in the Boston area, but moved to Cleveland after receiving the $500,000 that was lead by RiverVest Venture Partners, a St. Louis-based firm that also has a Cleveland office, said Karen Spilizewski, a vice president with RiverVest. The company may also soon be receiving a $250,000 investment from Cleveland-based venture development group JumpStart, according to founder and Chief Technology Officer John Garibotto.

Securus has also received a $350,000 grant from the state-funded Global Cardiovascular Innovation Center on Cleveland Clinic’s campus, Garibotto said. The company is expected to take space in the innovation center.

The goal to raise $1.5 million is detailed in a regulatory document.

There is a question on the product’s market size. A 2009 study by the University of Michigan’s department of cardiovascular medicine called data on atrioesophageal fistula “limited.” However, the study, which focused on one type of atrial fibrillation procedure, found that AEFs occurred in just 0.03 percent of more than 20,000 cases.

Marc Penn, a noted entrepreneur behind several Cleveland companies and director of research for the Summa Cardiovascular Institute, confirmed that AEFs are extremely rare events. “Atrial-fibrillation ablation has become a well-accepted and safer procedure over time,” Penn said. “Whether there’s a need for newer devices to further its safety is debatable.”

That, in a nutshell is Securus’ challenge. Even if its technology works perfectly, is it attacking a problem that’s big enough to justify building a company on (or, more likely, a product that can be sold to a bigger company, allowing Securus’ investors to exit)?