Harpoon Medical could sell to new investor, Edwards Lifesciences

Harpoon Medical, a startup focused on heart valve disease, has struck a deal that could lead to its sale.

Harpoon Medical, a Baltimore startup developing a device to be used in heart surgery, has a new investor — a large medical technology company that eventually might buy it outright.

Edwards Lifesciences Corp. joined in Harpoon's second major round of fundraising completed this fall. Harpoon CEO Bill Niland would not disclose specific dollar amounts but said the total investment is "magnitudes larger" than the $6 million the company has raised already.

The support from Edwards also includes a significant payment that gives it the right to acquire Harpoon. Such a move would absorb the startup, based on technology developed at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, into a California-based public company that also specializes in using technology to help people with deteriorating or malfunctioning heart valves.

"We have a ways to go," Niland said. "They haven't acquired us yet. We have to execute on our plan for that to happen."

The companies would not disclose details of their agreement.

Harpoon is working toward regulatory approval in Europe and the United States of its device used in surgeries to repair the mitral valve, a pair of flaps that control the flow of blood between the two chambers on the left side of the heart.

It has successfully tested the device, a gun-shaped tool that allows for minimally invasive surgery to repair the valve, on 10 patients in Poland. Harpoon aims to reduce mitral valve repair surgery from a three-to-six-hour, open-heart operation to a one-hour procedure, and to cut recovery from weeks to a matter of days.

Edwards' possible acquisition of Harpoon would diversify its offerings while maintaining its focus on heart valve disease. The Irvine, Calif.-based company is best known for an artificial valve for people with aortic stenosis, when the valve controlling the flow of blood from the heart into the aorta does not fully open.

Edwards officials were not made available for an interview. But in a transcript the company provided of comments made at an investor conference last week, officials said Harpoon's technology would help Edwards serve patients with mitral valve problems for whom a replacement valve wouldn't be appropriate.

"We're very excited to have this as part of our investments and we'll be watching closely as this company, and this team, makes progress clinically," said Donald E. Bobo Jr., Edwards' vice president for heart valve therapy, corporate strategy and corporate development.

If Edwards were to follow through on its option to acquire Harpoon, it likely wouldn't happen until early 2017, after more clinical testing is complete, Niland said.

Harpoon also had talks with other major medical device companies, including Medtronic, St. Jude Medical and Abbott, Niland said.

"We had good feedback from every one of them," he said. "Edwards moved faster and had a better deal than everybody else."

Harpoon's other investors include the Abell Foundation, Bethesda-based venture investing firm Epidarex Capital, the state government's Maryland Venture Fund and UM Ventures, a collaboration between the University of Maryland campuses in Baltimore and College Park.

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