Abbott gets its blood pumping by acquiring clot-removing devicemaker Walk Vascular

In its journey to grow its footprint in the endovascular surgery arena, Abbott has taken a major step forward, announcing Thursday its intent to acquire Walk Vascular.

Walk has developed a pair of mechanical aspiration thrombectomy systems for the minimally invasive removal of peripheral blood clots. Under the terms of the buyout, those devices will be folded into Abbott’s own vascular portfolio, which already includes a variety of catheters, stents, vascular plugs and closure systems and more.

“The acquisition of Walk Vascular fits well into our leading vascular device offerings and further drives Abbott’s ability to provide one-of-a-kind endovascular therapy solutions to improve patient care,” Julie Tyler, senior VP of Abbott’s vascular business, said in a statement. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

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Walk’s offerings include the JETi peripheral thrombectomy system and an “all-in-one” version of the system, which includes an internal vacuum pump to remove the blood clots, rather than a separate suction system. The systems get their name from the company’s jet-enhanced thrombectomy intervention technology.

The JETi system works by inserting a distal catheter into veins and arteries in the peripheral vascular system where potentially dangerous blood clots called thrombus have formed. Left untreated, the clots can impede blood flow, potentially leading to serious complications like stroke, heart attack and breathing issues.

Once the catheter is inserted, a saline jet on the end breaks up each clot without harming the surrounding blood cells, and then the destroyed clots are removed by either an internal or external vacuum pump to prevent them from causing further blockages. On average, the entire process takes just over an hour and can be performed in a single session.

A study of 18 patients that was published in early 2020 found that, used by itself, Walk’s technology achieved an average thrombus reduction of 92%. It reached technical success—meaning no further thrombolysis treatment was required to remove blood clots—in 76% of procedures, compared to the approximate 34% success rate of its competitors.

Both JETi systems have received FDA clearance in the U.S. and are also cleared for distribution in Canada, Australia, Europe and Asia. They’re currently being further evaluated in the JETi Registry study, which is aiming to enroll up to 250 people in the U.S. and Europe to study the long-term outcomes of patients who undergo a thrombectomy using Walk’s technology.

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The acquisition is Abbott’s first in nearly three years. Before snapping up Walk Vascular, its last offer came in January 2019, for Cephea Valve Technologies, which made minimally invasive mitral heart valve replacement devices.

That buyout, too, came after about a three-year M&A drought for Abbott, which had previously made bids for St. Jude Medical and Alere in early 2016. It originally offered up $25 billion for St. Jude and $5.8 billion for Alere, though the latter ultimately closed over a year later at a price of about $5.3 billion following attempts by Abbott to back out of the deal as Alere became the subject of corruption allegations.