Breethe, the medical device company founded by renowned University of Maryland School of Medicine surgeon and professor Dr. Bartley Griffith, has been acquired by Danvers, Massachusetts-based Abiomed, the companies announced this week.
Breethe’s system, which is designed to behave like a human lung, will become part of the Abiomed’s product portfolio. The device is designed to be portable, which can eliminate the need to use bulky oxygen tanks during ECMO therapy, which circulates blood from a patient’s body through an artificial lung. The device will help “to more comprehensively serve the needs of patients whose lungs can no longer provide sufficient oxygenation,” a news release states.
Abiomed makes heart pumps called Impella, which help to treat patients with advanced heart failure. The company will be able to treat those patients with the device, as well as patients with respiratory failure due to diseases such as ARDS, H1N1, SARS or COVID-19. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Breethe applied to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for 510(K) medical device clearance, which would allow the device to enter the market but it has not received clearance at this time.
The two companies were previously familiar with each other: Abiomed invested in Breethe last year, and has been a collaborator with Griffith.
“Abiomed is the best positioned company to build on the legacy of what we started,” Griffith said in a statement. “I am confident that the addition of Breethe’s technology into Abiomed’s product portfolio will further enhance Abiomed’s ability to improve outcomes for their patients and serve a new patient population.”
With the acquisition, Breethe will continue as a subsidiary of Abiomed, and will continue to be based in Halethorpe, where it has engineering and manufacturing facilities. Its 24 employees, who work in manufacturing, engineering, quality assurance and administrative functions, will join Abiomed, a spokesperson said.
Breethe has continued to be based in Baltimore since receiving licensing and investment from UM Ventures, which is the commercialization arm for the University of Maryland. In 2015, it was the second investment that UM Ventures made in a Baltimore startup that spun out of the university.
“It was really a great experience to get to work with somebody who is such a tremendous clinician and is just so dedicated to what is a terrible disease and spent his whole career trying to find a cure for it,” said UM Ventures Associate Vice President Office of Technology Transfer Phil Robilotto, who worked with Dr. Griffith over eight years.
Breethe is the fourth UM Ventures company it invested in to exit in recent years, joining Harpoon Medical, Surgigyn and Living Pharma. And when it comes to returns, each deal can help to build a new company, as well.
“We’re happy to be able to see startups succeed,” Robilotto said. “The better our track record is with investing the more we’re able to do it for companies coming down the pipeline. It gives us more resources.”
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