Coulter Foundation Funds MitraPlug

July 2016

MitraPlug, a new transcatheter mitral valve repair device developed in the Emory cardiothoracic surgery research laboratory, was one of six projects chosen to receive funding from the Emory/Georgia Tech Coulter Translational Research Partnership Program. Every year, the Coulter Partnership provides awards to research teams that typically pair scientists or engineers with physicians who are working on products with commercial potential that meet a significant unmet or underserved clinical need. The overall goal is that the teams learn to navigate the translational process so that they can receive future funding from outside the academic setting.

The $238,000 grant will accelerate research and development efforts to advance MitraPlug to being a viable product that can begin clinical trials. The technology was invented by Muralidhar Padala, PhD, assistant professor in cardiothoracic surgery and principal investigator of the Structural Heart Research and Innovation Program at Emory. Padala recently began conducting pre-clinical animal trials of MitraPlug in partnership with Eric Sarin, MD, a former Emory cardiothoracic surgery faculty member who is now co-director of the Structural Heart Program at INOVA Heart & Vascular Institute in Fairfax, VA.

Patients with mitral regurgitation secondary to cardiomyopathies—disorders of the heart muscle—are a challenge to manage clinically, and MitraPlug is expected to provide them with a better treatment option.

"Cardiologists have relatively large heart failure clinics that see such patients, and heart failure drugs do little to improve their cardiac function. Meanwhile, cardiac surgeons consider very few of these patients for mitral valve surgery because their ventricles are too dysfunctional to sustain open heart surgery," says Sarin.

"We are trying to develop a technology that can correct mitral regurgitation in these patients without the need for open heart surgery," says Padala. "We designed a small nitinol implant that is deployed on the leaky mitral valve using 3D ultrasound and fluoroscopy. After deployment, the device extends the native leaflet and improves valve closure. We have tested this concept extensively in benchtop models of mitral disease, and have some encouraging 90-day safety data in pre-clinical models."

Padala and Sarin expressed sincere appreciation for Rachel Hagen, program director of the Coulter Research Partnership, and her team's knowledge of the translational process and the services and resources they provide to shift the advance of promising projects into high gear.

"We started preparing a plan in January, and by July when we received the award, our path was clear," says Padala. "Our team meets with the foundation every two weeks, and at no cost to us, the meetings include mentors with experience moving Class III medical devices into the market. We couldn’t ask for more."

The Georgia Research Alliance has recently begun partnering with the Coulter Foundation by providing matching funds to assist in hastening the launch of such technologies as MitraPlug into the commercial sphere.

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