Abbott creates electrophysiology biz by moving in on a trio of NEA startups

TempaSure ablation catheter--Courtesy of Advanced Cardiac Therapeutics

Abbott ($ABT) has made its move on a trio of med tech startups focused on cardiovascular catheterization. It is buying electrophysiology startup Topera for $250 million plus undisclosed milestones, and has secured the right to purchase Advanced Cardiac Therapeutics, which has a novel ablation catheter. Plus, Abbott Ventures participated in a venture round for VytronUS. All three startups are backed by long-armed venture investor New Enterprise Associates.

The company is using this as a chance to launch itself into catheter-based electrophysiology.

Abbott certainly needs to do something to aid its ailing medical device business, which is its worst-performing in recently reported data for sales in the first 9 months of 2014 with a decline of 5.7% to $4 billion. That dragged the entire company's sales down 1.2% to a total of $15 billion.

Its units within Medical Devices are Vascular, Diabetes Care and Medical Optics. Vascular sales declined by 4.1% for the 9-month period to $2.2 billion. Diabetes Care fell 24% to $877 million, while Medical Optics grew by 14.2% to $904 million.

Topera develops electrophysiology technologies to enable better diagnosis and treatment of atrial fibrillation. In January, FDA cleared the newest generation of its 3-D Mapping System that was updated to include a color-imaging module to aid in the identification of rotors, a condition associated with atrial fibrillation. The improvements are intended to enable more efficient diagnoses of complex arrhythmias.

"Atrial fibrillation is an incredibly challenging arrhythmia to treat, and the complexity of this disorder has defied interpretation and visualization by traditional EP mapping approaches," said Dr. Eric Prystowsky, director of clinical electrophysiology at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis, IN, who sits on the Topera board, in a statement at the time. "Topera's technology is the first to demonstrate an ability to reflect faithfully the complex mechanism(s) of this arrhythmia and provide a reliable way to visualize the tissue sources sustaining it."

In a study of the use of Topera's system with catheter ablation, patients had an 87.5% success rate for a first ablation procedure, with an 80.5% success rate after one year. That compares to a 50% to 60% success rate for catheter ablation alone, the startup said. The system also results in shorter ablation times for some procedures because it identifies the specific areas within an individual patient's heart that are related to irregular heartbeat.

"There is significant room to use advanced rotor identification technologies to improve the success rate and reduce the need for multiple ablation procedures, and thus improve the health of people with atrial fibrillation," John Capek, EVP of Medical Devices at Abbott, said in a statement.

Topera's most recent disclosed private financing was a $25 million Series C round in April 2013, which was led by New Enterprise Associates with participation from an undisclosed new strategic partner as well as existing investors.

In a separate deal, Abbott gained the right to buy Advanced Cardiac Therapeutics upon the completion of unidentified milestones for an undisclosed amount. ACT is a startup with an ablation catheter that is intended to improve the safety and effectiveness of ablation procedures. Its TempaSure technology uses proprietary microwave radiometry to measure the volumetric temperature in the heart in real time so that physicians can better control and predict lesion formation for improved clinical outcomes.

It also counts NEA among its investors, which led an undisclosed venture round in April, with participation from existing investor NBGI Ventures.

Both startups would fall under Abbott's new electrophysiology business. To run it, Abbott has hired Michael Pederson, the former president and CEO of VytronUS. Prior to that, Pederson was the VP and GM of Boston Scientific's electrophysiology business from 2008 to 2011.

VytronUS is another NEA portfolio company, which has led a $31.6 million venture round with participation from Abbott Ventures. VytronUS is developing a low-intensity collimated ultrasound to image and treat cardiac arrythmias.

- here is the release from Abbott and NEA blog

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