The Baltimore-based company was cofounded by two of the key people involved in Harpoon Medical’s 2017 acquisition. UM Ventures has been an early supporter and investor.
Published 7/6/20 in Technical.ly Baltimore
Protaryx Medical, a startup out of the University of Maryland, Baltimore that is developing a device for use during beating heart cardiology procedures, is emerging with $8.3 million in funding raised.
The funding to date includes a $3.2 million seed round, and a recently closed Series A financing, led by Silicon Valley-based Ajax Health. UM Ventures, which is the University of Maryland’s commercialization arm, invested in both rounds. UM Ventures and TEDCO also provided the company with non-dilutive grants.
The Baltimore-based company was founded in 2019, but traces roots to another recent startup story out of Baltimore. Cofounders Dr. James S. Gammie, who is chief of cardiac surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and CEO Terri Burke were both involved with Harpoon Medical, the Baltimore medical device company that was acquired in 2017 by Edwards Lifesciences in a deal that was worth $100 million at the time. Gammie was the cofounder and inventor of Harpoon’s device, while Burke led global marketing and business development at Edwards.
In 2019, they founded Protaryx as Gammie sought to bring innovation to the area of transsceptal access, which is a key step in accessing the left atrium of the heart to perform a procedure.
“Jim and I are really excited about the technology. We really do think it is first in class,” Burke said. “It’s just fantastic personally to have a partner like Dr. Gammie who is so thoughtful about innovation and how to help patients.”
When performing surgical procedures in which the heart is not stopped such as mitral valve repair and replacement, left atrial appendage closure and catheter ablation to treat cardiac arrhythmias, it requires creating access from the right atrium into the left atrium, and crossing through an area that is the size of a quarter. As Burke put it, a specialist must “open the door” before the procedure can be fully carried through.
The step has been performed for 50 years, but still had a steep learning curve for the physicians who perform it, and Gammie observed that the existing device is difficult to train people on. A key to the company’s device is that moves in three dimensions — up or down, left to right, or rotating. With these directional abilities, it “will make procedures quicker and hopefully safer for patients, and reduce complications,” Burke said.
As it looks to continue developing the device, Protaryx is based downtown, and also has an engineering office in Minneapolis.
The company got early support from UM Ventures and working through the UMB ecosystem, which Burke said enabled the company to “rapidly iterate” as it worked through initial prototyping. And when it came to the company raising outside capital, UM Ventures also stepped up as an investor, sending a signal to others that Protaryx is worth a closer look. It made a similar investment in Harpoon Medical.
“We’re very happy to participate in that first round,” said Phil Robilotto, UM Ventures’ associate VP in the Office of Technology Transfer. UM Ventures also opted to double down, with the Series A representing a follow-on. It helped that the org knew Gammie and could see the innovation the device could bring.
“There’s a growing market need for this device to access that side of the heart,” Robilotto said.