J&J's Ethicon to acquire sphincter specialist Torax Medical

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In its acquisition of Torax, Johnson & Johnson would add a treatment for gastroesophageal reflux disease that does not alter a patient's anatomy.

Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon unit has agreed to acquire Torax Medical, which markets devices for the treatment of gastrointestinal conditions stemming from sphincter issues. The transaction amount was not disclosed.

In the deal, J&J will pick up a minimally invasive treatment for gastroesophageal reflux disease, the Linx Reflux Management system. It is a small, flexible band of magnetic titanium beads that helps prevent reflux by stopping the lower esophageal sphincter from opening due to stomach pressure.

Acquiring the device will allow J&J to offer patients a minimally invasive alternative to laparoscopic Nissen fundoplication, which involves wrapping the upper part of the stomach around the esophagus and stitching it in place.

Privately held Torax raised $25 million in a Series E round last summer, which it pegged for the scaling of its products aimed at chronic conditions caused by weak sphincter muscles. These include the Linx system and the Fenix Continence Restoration System, for fecal incontinence.

The Fenix system works similarly to the Linx device: The band of magnetic beads minimizes involuntary opening of the anal canal, decreasing the chance of severe incontinence.

The deal comes nearly a month after the conglomerate announced it was considering selling off its diabetes device businesses, whole or in parts, and just weeks after it said its medical device chairman, Gary Pruden, would step down.