This article was originally published in Start Up
Embolic Protection Inc. has developed a guidewire-based filtering device for retrieving and removing embolic debris released into the bloodstream during angioplasty and stenting. These small particles can lodge in blood vessels downstream, blocking blood flow and increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. EPI has a low-profile, "one size fits all" device, which the company believes is much more effective at both removing and retaining embolic particles than other filtering devices currently under development.
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While the debate continues about whether embolic protection devices are really necessary, the space continues to generate interest from investors, start-ups and large companies looking for new technologies. Despite the unfulfilled promise of the past decade, interest has spread to new interventional applications such as percutaneous heart valves, indicating that this area remains a viable opportunity for start-ups.
Today, carotid artery stenting is an accepted less-invasive alternative to surgical endarterectomy for carefully selected patients, particularly those at significant surgical risk, and market projections are very positive. But, the field still has a long way to go before this procedure is considered routine.
At this year's Paris Course on Revascularization (PCR), the leading European interventional meeting, embolic protection devices (EPDs) were among the prime subjects, in terms of clinical presentations and company exhibits. Some industry executives had predicted that Medtronic's acquisition last fall of PercuSurge would end the competitive race in this market before it really began. But judging by both the newer companies at the PCR and other recent entrants into this space, it appears that the battle has just begun. There are around 14 companies now competing in this space, six of which have received CE mark. Since none of these companies is on the US market, the initial competitive battle will be fought in Europe. Each of the major cardiology companies has already gotten into this area, generally through acquisitions. But there are also several start-ups that have come up with new technological approaches that are receiving favorable initial clinical reviews, so the debate remains open as to which of three approaches--occlusion balloons, filters, or proximal occlusion/reverse flow systems will ultimately prevail.