Sorin commits $5.4M to percutaneous mitral valve replacement startup

Sorin Group is betting on a future with percutaneous mitral valve replacement. The Italian device giant says it will invest an initial $5.4 million in HighLife SAS in France, a 2-year-old startup developing a novel twist on the technology.

Sorin has a minority investment right now, but the company also has an exclusive option to buy the company outright, assuming its technology development bears fruit. There is a good chance it will. Georg Börtlein founded the company in Paris in 2010. If his name isn't familiar, it should be. As Sorin notes, he co-founded and served as chief operating officer of CoreValve, an early developer of transcatheter aortic valve replacement products now owned by Medtronic ($MDT). That same CoreValve technology, of course, is also at the center of a patent violation lawsuit Edwards Lifesciences ($EW) is actively pursuing.

Sorin's investment also follows its $8 million investment in Cardiosolutions, a small U.S. developer of less invasive devices and surgical tools for various heart conditions. Combined, both deals follow the company's now-ongoing strategy of developing new products focused on heart valve therapies and heart failure.

Sorin's initial investment will support SAS's product development and clinical testing. Its product is designed to serve as a transcatheter replacement system for treating mitral regurgitation.

There are few competitors at the moment with devices that enable valve replacement to be performed without open-heart surgery. Edwards and Medtronic, for example, compete in transcatheter aortic valve replacement. But Sorin's move shows that competition is heating up. CardiAQ Valve Technologies in California recently pulled in $32.5 million in new funding to develop a transcatheter mitral valve replacement system as an alternative to surgery.

- read the release