Sunday 16 December 2018

Irish medtech firm lands €40m funding for secret heart gadget

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Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

An Irish medical technology company has raised €40m for a secret product that aims to help people with heart failure.

A spokeswoman for the company said that the exact nature of the product has not yet been disclosed to people outside investors and researchers working on it.

However, a statement from the company described the cash -- which represents of the biggest funding rounds by an Irish-based startup -- as going to fund a “novel remote monitoring solution to improve outcomes for heart failure”.

It is also planning to manufacture the product either in-house or on an outsourced basis.

Currently, the biotech and medical technology industry is awash with venture cash, as investors feverishly seek alternatives to low-yield banking and institutional financial instruments.

In Ireland, venture capital funding levels increased to a record €817m for the first nine months of 2017, with biotech funding occupying a large chunk of that cash.

Fire 1, which was started by the American entrepreneur Mark Deem, landed the money from a number of international venture capital firms and the Irish medtech company Medtronic. It’s the third funding round that Fire 1 has landed since its beginning in 2013 and brings to almost €50m the amount of money raised.

The company operates out of Nexus UCD, an office facility at the Dublin university for companies that want close access to student research and graduate recruitment.

In 2016, Mr Deem recruited an Irish executive, Conor Hanley, to be the company’s chief executive. Mr Hanley previously worked at the US respiratory technology firm ResMed.

Fire 1 has 15 people working for the company, with a former McKinsey and ResMed executive, John Britton, currently in place as its chief operating officer. The company’s vice president for research and development is Fiachra Sweeney, a medical device expert who formerly worked at Medtronic and the manufacturing company Nypro.

“90,000 Irish people live with heart failure, with 10,000 newly diagnosed each year,” said a company statement. “The condition affects 15 million people across the EU. Globally, it is estimated that at least 26 million people suffer from heart failure, and the burden is particularly high for older patients. It is the leading cause of hospitalisation for people over 65, with annual treatment costs exceeding $31 billion in the US alone.”

“Accounting for 1.2pc of the total Irish health budget, heart failure totals €158 million [in] direct cost to the Irish health service. With an aging population, the impact of heart failure is expected to increase substantially.”

A spokeswoman for the company said that it will soon divulge more about what its technology sets out to.

“This infusion of new capital from these premier investors will enable us to accelerate our progress and deliver on our commitment to help patients with heart failure,” said Conor Hanley, FIRE1 CEO and president in a written statement. “Heart failure is a life-threatening disease and a significant burden on patients and healthcare systems. Managing patients at home with novel digital health-enabled solutions will help intercept the trajectory of the disease and reduce the need for hospitalisation.”

Mr Hanley was unavailable to comment further on what the product is or does.

This is Fire 1’s third funding round, led by the European investor Gilde Healthcare and joined by Belgian venture firm Gimv and French finance firm Seventure. The company’s existing investors also re-invested, including the US venture firms Lightstone Ventures and New Enterprise Associates and the Irish med-tech company Medtronic.

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