Mayo-Connected Startup Medicool Technologies Lands Grant to Build Prototype Heart-Cooling Device
A Mayo Clinic-connected medtech startup has landed a second commercialization grant from the National Science Foundation as it prepares to unveil a potentially revolutionary new way to treat atrial fibrillations.
Rochester-based Medicool Technologies Inc., led by a team of former Boston Scientific business pros and Mayo cardiologists, is working on a completely novel kind of implantable device that uses cooling technology to painlessly halt atrial fibrillations (AF), or irregular beating in the heart’s upper chambers caused by misfiring electrical signals.
Last year the startup snagged $250,000 in initial seed funding from the NSF’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant program, though which the federal agency distributes dual-phased awards encouraging small businesses to perform research having the potential for commercialization.
Now, the NSF has announced that Medicool has also been awarded a follow-on Phase II SBIR grant, bringing its total funding under the program to $671,031.
In an interview with TCB last year, Medicool chief scientific officer Dr. Arjun Sharma, a St. Paul-based medical device consultant and former vice president of patient safety for Boston Scientific, said that should a Phase II award be received, the company would use it to develop a prototype of its implantable cooling device.
The technology behind Medicool’s device was developed by Drs. Paul Friedman and Samuel Asirvatham of the Mayo Clinic. Friedman is vice chair of cardiovascular medicine and director of Mayo’s implantable device lab, while Asirvatham is recognized as one of the country’s top practitioners of catheter ablation therapy to treat complex heart arrhythmias. Both have long track records of generating patents and patent applications for Mayo.
Their goal is to perfect and gain approvals for the first-ever implantable device designed to stop AF. While usually not fatal in itself, AF can increase the risk of stroke and requires medical attention. Some 2.7 million Americans are living with AF, according to the American Heart Association. Possible causes of the heart flutters include high blood pressure, previous heart attacks, coronary artery disease or congenital heart defects.
The most common means of ending the harmful irregular rhythms is delivering a shock via an external defibrillator. Implantable shock defibrillators have been tried before, but users found the pain unbearable, and because of that, an implantable option for AF has for years been deemed impractical.
Another way to treat AF is through a minimally invasive but costly surgical procedure known as catheter ablation, in which wires are inserted through a vein and threaded up to the heart. Microwaves sent out through an electrode destroys the heart tissue that is causing the problem.
But under the technology developed by the Mayo cardiologists, a much cheaper and “painless” implantable option that would also preserve heart tissue could one day be on the table. Instead of delivering electric shocks, the invention involves the application of a heat transferal methodology known as the Peltier effect — now found in consumer products such as portable coolers — to cool down the affected cardiac tissue and thereby cause the fibrillations to slow down or cease.