Based in Storrs, Connecticut, a startup called Dura Biotech is offering hope to high-risk cardiac patients who need valve replacement surgery. The company’s medical device, a transcatheter aortic valve, is 33 percent smaller than anything on the market—so small, in fact, that it can be inserted through an artery in the leg, eliminating the need for invasive and expensive open heart surgery. This novel delivery method opens up valve replacement to some 17,000 people, mostly children and the elderly, who are deemed too risky to undergo standard open-heart surgery.
Dura’s device is meant to replace a damaged aortic valve, one of four valves in the heart responsible for maintaining one-way blood flow. The innovation is the brainchild of CEO Eric Sirois, who received his Ph.D in mechanical engineering from the University of Connecticut in 2014.
Dura’s very small valve has attracted very big attention from the state’s startup scene, and from the federal government. In March 2014, CTNext, the state’s innovation ecosystem managed by Connecticut Innovations, the state’s venture capital arm, awarded Dura a $10,000 grant at the Entrepreneur Innovation Awards, a Shark Tank-style live pitch competition held throughout the state. The company used the money, along with a $50,000 grant from UConn’s Third Bridge program, to further develop its valve so that it could apply for funding from the Connecticut Bioscience Innovation Fund (CBIF). In July 2014, CBIF, also managed by Connecticut Innovations, awarded $492,340 in funding in the form of a secured loan to Dura Biotech to support valve fabrication and evaluation as well as preclinical animal studies.
With assistance from Connecticut Innovations’ Small Business Innovation group, which helps companies apply for some of the billions of dollars in federal funding earmarked for small business research and development, Dura Biotech also secured a $400,000 federal Small Business Innovation Research grant.
With this new funding in place, Dura Biotech is making great progress toward commercializing its tiny transcatheter aortic valve. In September 2015, the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science, also known as IACUC, granted approval to Dura to begin large animal testing at Hartford Hospital. The company plans to begin simulated use testing by October 2015, followed by acute animal implants. Animal testing moves the company closer to it goal of conducting human clinical trials in Europe, where test requirements are less stringent than in the U.S. Sirois said his company will begin first-in-human testing next year and human clinical trials in the EU in 2017.
As of September 2015, the company employed 10 full-time employees and three part-time interns.
Founded in 2012, Dura Biotech is a world leader in soft tissue modeling and simulation. Located in Storrs, Connecticut, Dura Biotech is a member of the UConn TIP program, and is focusing on developing technologies to improve the functionality and durability of bioprosthetic valves, in particular transcatheter heart valves. Learn more at www.durabiotech.com.
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