LivaNova inks $225M deal for sleep apnea startup

The aura6000 implant and accompanying remote. (Courtesy of ImThera)

LivaNova has struck a $225 million deal to buy ImThera Medical. The agreement will see LivaNova hand over $78 million upfront and commit to almost $150 million in regulatory and sales milestones to acquire the rest of ImThera and its neurostimulation treatment for sleep apnea.

London, United Kingdom-based LivaNova took a stake in ImThera in 2011. Since then, it has seen the startup secure clearance to sell its implantable sleep apnea device in Europe and start a pivotal trial designed to support an approval in the U.S. That progress has prompted LivaNova to swoop for ImThera.

The takeover, which is set to close early next year, will give LivaNova control of aura6000, a neuromodulator implant for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea. Some patients with the condition use continuous positive airway pressure therapy, a treatment that requires the patient to wear a mask over their mouth to sleep. But other patients are unwilling or unable to be treated this way, creating an opportunity for alternative interventions.

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ImThera’s response to this opportunity is an implant that stimulates the tongue via the hypoglossal nerve during sleep, much as pacemakers stimulate the heart. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the relaxation of tongue muscles during sleep leads to the blockage of the airway. The stimulation keeps the airway open while the patient is sleeping by providing tone to certain muscles in the tongue, preventing sleep apnea. 

Neuromodulation has been a key part of LivaNova’s business since it was created in 2015 through the $2.7 billion merger of Cyberonics and Sorin. The unit today is built on devices to treat epilepsy and heart failure. LivaNova thinks it can further grow the unit by putting the infrastructure built up to support these devices behind aura6000.

“The ImThera device is highly aligned with our existing neuromodulation business. In the near term, we will focus on expanding ImThera’s current commercial presence in the European market,” LivaNova CEO Damien McDonald said in a statement. “With our strong commercial capabilities and robust manufacturing, we look forward to bringing this innovative technology to the large patient population that has been unsuccessful with other treatments.”