Atlas Links with Guidant in $9 Million Impella Start-Up

A German start-up, Impella Cardiotechnik, plans to develop and market a cardiac support device which may eliminate the need for traditional cardiopulmonary bypass equipment during surgery.

Impella was formed by Atlas Venture and Guidant Corporation, a word leader in the treatment of cardiovascular disease. Guidant has assigned to Impella exclusive worldwide rights to a microaxial blood flow pump developed at Germany’s Heimholz Institute. The US group, ,which identifies and evaluates emerging technologies to supplement its own R&D via its Compass arm, originally acquired rights to this technology through a joint R&D agreement with the Heimholz Institute. In return, Guidant gets equity, marketing rights and a seat on Impella’s advisory council. Atlas Venture led a European venture capital syndicate which, together with government funding, will bankroll the new company to the tune of over $9 million (ecu 8.3 million).

The microaxial blood pump developed at Heimholz can be inserted into the heart either in the normal way, via a chest incision, or up through the femoral artery. The device, powered by a small external console, is intended to provide full circulatory support, using the patient’s lungs to oxygenate the blood.

Since many physicians believe traditional cardiopulmonary bypass equipment can cause patient complications such as stroke, poor post-operative heart function and whole-body inflammatory response, the advantages of this alternative means of maintaining oxygenation are obvious. The Heimholz pump is designed for use during open or minimally invasive coronary artery bypass surgery and in cases of acute heart failure.

Jay Watkins, president of Guidant’s Cardiac & Vascular Surgery Group, who is also responsible for Compass, said the creation of Impella by Atlas, Compass and the Heimholz Institute would focus and accelerate development of an important new technology.

Atlas’s founding general partner Michiel de Haan said “We are very impressed with the people and technology involved with Impella, which has all the ingredients to become a big success”.