Harpoon Medical is commercializing a potentially transformative medical device that will help doctors repair damaged mitral valves through minimally invasive surgery.

Degenerative mitral regurgitation is a common heart disorder that afflicts millions of people across the globe and leads to 50,000 operations each year in the United States, alone. Today the standard of care for mitral valve repair is open-heart surgery, which requires the patient’s breastbone to be split open and his or her heart to be stopped (cardiac arrest). This risky procedure often results in recovery periods of several weeks followed by lengthy stints of physical therapy. Moreover, open-heart surgery is costly for payers and time-intensive for providers.  Harpoon Medical’s device allows surgeons to repair the mitral valve while the patients’ heart is still beating through a minor incision, enabling patients to recover faster and doctors to spend less time in the operating room.

This novel approach caught the attention of Edwards Lifesciences, a worldwide leader in heart replacement and repair technologies, which made a strategic investment in Harpoon that brought the company’s total funding to $17.5 million. As part of the transaction, Edwards also secured an option to acquire the startup.

But three years ago, before Harpoon’s story was widely known, the company received $100,000 of critical funding from the Maryland Innovation Initiative (MII) to help commercialize its initial prototype. “Venture capitalists and partners always want to see a certain amount of progress and traction,” said Harpoon CEO Bill Niland. “But finding the capital to get to that point presents a serious challenge, even for experienced teams.”

In addition to the MII award, the Maryland Venture Fund has invested $750,000 in Harpoon Medical in both the company’s Series A and B financings.  Harpoon Medical is a perfect example of a TEDCO seed funded company that also has demonstrated growth potential to attract investment from the Maryland Venture Fund.

“Dr. Gammie and Bill Niland make an absolutely exceptional team,” said TEDCO President and COO, John Wasilisin. “The pairing of a serial entrepreneur and a world-renowned clinician and scientist is the kind of recipe for success that the region should be striving to replicate.”

Dr. James Gammie, Professor of Surgery and Chief of Cardiac Surgery at the University of Maryland, conceived of the mitral valve technology that became the basis for Harpoon Medical in 2012. Niland, who previously founded the respiratory medical device company Vapotherm, was brought onboard in 2013.

The device is currently undergoing trials in Europe to attain CE Mark clearance, and Harpoon will turn its sights towards the US market and FDA approval in this year. Harpoon has 12 full-time employees in its Camden Yards office in downtown Baltimore. That number could grow to nearly 20 by the end of the year.