CryoLife makes equity investment in ValveXchange


CryoLife announced a US$3.5 million equity investment in ValveXchange, a private medical device company that was spin-off out of Cleveland Clinic to develop a lifetime heart valve replacement technology platform featuring exchangeable bioprosthetic leaflets.

Under the agreement, CryoLife will receive an approximate 19% initial equity ownership in ValveXchange as well as the right of first refusal to acquire ValveXchange during a period that extends through the completion of initial commercialisation milestones, as well as the right to negotiate with ValveXchange for European distribution rights. Further, CryoLife will make available up to US$2.0 million to ValveXchange in additional debt financing through a revolving credit facility.

Steven G Anderson, chairman, president and CEO of CryoLife, said, “We believe that the ValveXchange technology is an extremely compelling next generation heart valve approach. Its unique replaceable bioprosthetic leaflet design has the potential to eliminate repeat open heart surgeries from the long-term wear complications associated with current biological valves. We believe that the system may resolve the long standing compromises between conventional mechanical and biological heart valves, potentially making this platform applicable to patients of all ages. This investment is well in-line with our strategy to focus on innovative products that could further leverage our direct sales force and their relationships with cardiac surgeons.”

Larry Blankenship, chairman and CEO of ValveXchange, said, “We are truly excited to have CryoLife as an investor in our company. We believe this investment will enable us to bring our innovative heart valve technology to market. Our animal study data demonstrated very encouraging results, with valve leaflet exchanges and second exchanges going smoothly. This funding will support first-in-man procedures of our Vitality Exchangeable heart valve system, anticipated to occur later this year, followed by a planned European clinical trial. We look forward to delivering this innovative solution to physicians and patients worldwide.”

The Vitality Exchangeable heart valve system combines the safety and longevity associated with the most commonly used surgical bioprosthetic valves with the ability to provide minimally invasive access for transapical valve exchange. Vitality is a two-part valve platform for patients of all ages that can potentially overcome the challenges of long-term leaflet wear and the requirement for repeat invasive valve replacement surgery. The healed-in support frame of the valve remains in the heart, while the worn-out leaflet set is designed to be quickly exchanged without open-heart surgery or cardiopulmonary bypass. The new leaflet set then provides the same years of service life as the original with no reduction in valve function.

ValveXchange’s second generation system, the Vanguard, is designed to allow both the implantation and valve exchange procedures to be done transapically, through a small incision between the ribs and a small hole in the apex of the heart, both of which heal readily. With ValveXchange technology, off-pump MIS techniques can be applied to both the initial implant and subsequent exchanges later in life.