Capstan Medical hauls in $31M to develop robotic transcatheter heart valve replacements

A startup that aims to integrate robotics with minimally invasive heart valve procedures has collected $31.4 million in venture capital funding. 

While robots have made inroads in many different types of surgeries—from orthopedic joint replacements, to placing spine implants, to conducting keyhole procedures in the abdomen—the replacement of leaky heart valves has largely been a hands-on affair.

At the same time, Capstan Medical has set its sights on two specific cardiac interventions on the verge of advancement: transcatheter-based replacements of the mitral and tricuspid valves.

Transcatheter implant approaches for the heart’s aortic and pulmonary valves have been well studied, with the former being available to a broadened number of patients for years. But failing mitral and tricuspid valves, which separate the atria from the ventricles on either side of the cardiac muscle, have instead largely been treated via open-heart surgery. 

However, several transcatheter approaches—which snake a folded implant into the heart through the patient’s blood vessels to completely replace the valve—have been under development at major medtechs, including mitral devices at Medtronic, Edwards Lifesciences and Abbott among several other devicemakers.

With mitral regurgitation being one of the most common structural heart diseases, companies estimate that a minimally invasive approach—with the ability to reach higher-risk patients and offer faster recovery times—could become a multibillion-dollar market.

“Open-heart surgery is traumatic and an unrealistic treatment option for many—there is significant need for better options for patients to address their heart valve disease,” Capstan CEO Maggie Nixon said in the company’s announcement. One of Capstan’s goals is to bring robotic-assisted precision to the placement and deployment of valve implants within a beating heart.

The California-based startup’s series B round was led by Eclipse with additional backing from Intuitive Ventures and Puma Venture Capital.

Currently, there are no commercially available catheter-based implants for completely replacing a leaky mitral or tricuspid valve. Some aortic valves have received FDA green lights to replace previously implanted mitral valve devices that have failed over time. Other smaller transcatheter devices, such as Abbott’s MitraClip and TriClip, aim to repair mitral and tricuspid valves using the heart’s native tissues.

Going forward, Capstan aims to grow its engineering, clinical development and operations teams with an eye on preparing for the first human clinical trials of its own valve and delivery system.