Medtech firm tops list of 1,280 funding candidates with device to manage irregular heatbeat

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AuriGen Medical was the top ranked applicant out of 1,280 candidates for the EU’s Horizon 2020 SME funding and has secured €2.5 million to further the development of its implant to treat an irregular hearbeat.

Atrial Fibrillation is a condition where the chambers of the heart are beating out of rhythm with each other, often caused by erratic electrical signals being sent through the muscle.

Its most common symptoms are shortness of breath, weakness, and heart palpitations. But in severe cases atrial fibrillation can cause blood clots to form, putting the patient at risk of heart failure or a stroke.

Current treatments include using medications, cardioversion and ablation, or keyhole surgery to destroy whatever tissue in the heart is causing the irregular electrical signal.

But AuriGen says these procedures are only really helpful for people with an intermittent case of the disease. Their device is aimed at the roughly 10 million patients across Europe with persistent atrial fibrillation racking up billions of euros in medical costs every year.

AuriGen was founded in 2015 by medtech engineer Tony O’Halloran and former intensive care doctor, John Thompson. The two met through NUI Galway’s BioInnovate programme which has fostered many successful startups in the medtech and life sciences sectors.

Speaking to the Irish Times, CEO of Aurigen, Dr. Thompson said that beyond just receiving funding, being the top ranked applicant is a strong endorsement of what they’re doing.

“Ranking first in the Horizon 2020 SME instrument is an incredible endorsement of AuriGen Medical’s technology, market opportunity and the company’s management team,” he said.

AuriGen say their implant is the first device of its kind that will allow doctors to treat the risk of both heart failure or a stroke that can come with atrial fibrillation.

The implant will sit in the left atrial appendage, a flap where blood clots can be formed by an irregular heartbeat, and use its onboard sensors and algorithms to give real time feedback to doctors treating the patient’s heart.

According to AuriGen this information can help reduce procedure times while improving success rates, and open up these procedures to more doctors.

Mr. O’Halloran, chief technology officer at AuriGen, says the funding will help the startup hire more staff and bring forward the implant’s development in order to be ready to start human trials in 2020.

When completed they’ll first take aim at treating the 200,000 persistent atrial fibrillation patients a year who have repeat ablations of the heart, the cost of which AuriGen puts at over €50,000 per person.