March 27, 2009
Atritech Inc., a small medical device company based in Plymouth, said Thursday it has raised $30 million in private financing -- funds that will spur development and the commercial launch of a new product to treat a common heart condition called atrial fibrillation.
In roughly three years, the company has raised $75 million in capital.
The latest infusion comes just as results of a large clinical trial studying Atritech's signature Watchman device are set to be released. They will be announced by Mayo Clinic cardiologist Dr. David Holmes on Saturday at the American College of Cardiology meeting in Orlando. The 800-patient study -- large by medical technology standards -- pitted Atritech's device against the widely used blood-thinning drug warfarin.
Atritech also announced Thursday that its application for regulatory approval of the Watchman device will be heard by a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on April 23. While the FDA is not bound by the recommendation of the panel, it's unusual for the agency to go against a panel decision.
Because atrial fibrillation, an abnormal quivering of the upper chambers of the heart, afflicts some 6.5 million people worldwide, many med-tech companies have entered the $1 billion global market, according to Millennium Research Group. St. Jude Medical Inc. of Little Canada is seen as an early leader in the business, and in the past year, Fridley-based Medtronic Inc. bought two atrial fibrillation companies for about $600 million.
Atritech has been developing the Watchman device for nearly nine years. The device is permanently placed near the opening of the left atrial appendage of the heart during an angioplasty-like procedure.
The idea is to prevent blood clots from entering a patient's bloodstream and causing a stroke. Typically, patients who suffer from atrial fibrillation take blood-thinning medications to prevent clots from forming, but these drugs often have side effects such as internal bleeding.
"We've thought for some time that [atrial fibrillation] is one of the more significant unmet clinical needs out there,'' said Pete McNerney, a partner with Thomas, McNerney & Partners, which was the lead investor in the recent financing for Atritech. (Split Rock Partners was also a substantial investor, with secondary funds coming from Prism Ventures, Tullis-Dickerson and Vector Group.)
McNerney's group worked with Atritech CEO Jim Bullock when he headed St. Paul-based Endocardial Solutions, another atrial fibrillation company that was ultimately bought by St. Jude for $273 million.
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