Published 12/12/17 on Baltimore

The University of Maryland spinout joined Edwards Lifesciences in a deal that could be worth up to $250 million. Employees will continue work at the Camden Yards office to get the device to market.

Edwards Lifesciences will maintain an office in Baltimore following the acquisition of University of Maryland Baltimore spinout Harpoon Medical, according to the startup’s former CEO Bill Niland.

The $100 million cash deal was announced last week. It came two years after Edwards invested in the medical device company with the option to acquire it later. Terms indicate another $150 million in royalties could be added if certain benchmarks are met in the sales and regulatory development of Harpoon’s minimally invasive open heart surgery device, Niland said.

The company currently has a staff of 16 people working out of Harpoon’s offices at the Camden Yards warehouse.

“Everybody who’s working out of that office today is working at Edwards now,” said Niland, who is also now an employee of the California company. “Edwards plans to keep a presence here.”

The office could grow with hiring for engineering and clinical team members. He added that maintaining an R&D presence following a deal is keeping in the pattern of past Edwards acquisitions.

While the acquisition represents a clear milestone for the company, work remains as the company looks to bring Harpoon’s device to market. Based on technology invented by University of Maryland School of Medicine’s head of cardiac surgergy James S. Gammie, the device is designed to repair the valve flowing from the left atrium to the left ventricle while the heart is still beating. It’s designed to be minimally invasive and could cut time in surgery for the mitral valve repair procedure to less than an hour.

Over the last year, Niland said the focus for the startup has been on clinical trials in Europe as it works toward a CE Mark, which would provide regulatory clearance on that continent. The company expects to obtain that clearance soon.

Niland said the ability of Edwards to spread the word about the project once the device reaches the market made the deal to join the larger company attractive.

“They have an entire sales and marketing staff that’s already in place today thats all ready to go,” Niland said. “And they have a very good reputation in the market.”
The community of Maryland organizations looking to spur startup growth from the state’s research institutions also rallied behind the company. Harpoon received funding from the Maryland Venture Fund, the Abell FoundationTEDCO, the InvestMaryland Challenge and UM Ventures. Niland said their backing “was very important to us going forward” as the startup sought out additional investors.

Bethesda-based Epidarex Capital was also among investors, leading its Series A round. The firm looks to invest in companies addressing unmet medical needs.

“Having been actively involved with Harpoon since its early days, this is an exciting milestone for the company, for the University of Maryland Baltimore and for Epidarex,” Kyp Sirinakis, Managing Partner of Epidarex, said in a statement.

Such a deal also brings the hope that it could have ripple effects in the community. One way that happens is if the leaders of companies who reached an exit start spreading what they learned. While he remains with Edwards, Niland said he is currently on the boards of a pair of medical device startups and is looking to help others.

Whether the community produces large companies or more exits, “My big interest is helping more startups in Baltimore – medical device startups – advance,” Niland said.