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Exclusive: Heart tech developer Capstan circulates $31M

Illustration of two hands exchanging a red heart.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Investors pumped $31.4 million in Series B funding into Capstan Medical, a developer of robotic-assisted heart valve surgery technology, CEO Maggie Nixon tells Axios exclusively.

Why it matters: No alternatives yet exist to traditional heart valve surgery, which is invasive and requires four to six months of recovery.

Details: Eclipse led the round. Partner Justin Butler is joining Capstan's board.

  • Intuitive Ventures and Puma Venture Capital's Vipul Patel also participated.
  • Funds will be used to hire engineers, clinical developers and operations people with the goal of moving the technology closer to human use.
  • Nixon hopes to raise a Series C in 2025.

How it works: The Santa Cruz, California-based company is developing technology to treat mitral and tricuspid valve disease, which can develop over time or be present from the time someone is born.

  • Capstan's tech — which is not yet commercially available — is designed to be inserted through a catheter while the heart is still beating, thus offering a less invasive alternative to traditional open heart surgery.
  • The combined system will include the implant, catheter, and robotic system and be regulated by the FDA as a Class III medical device. (Other forms of Class III devices include implantable pacemakers and breast implants, for example.)

Flashback: After spending 20 years at robotics giant Intuitive Surgical, Nixon was recruited by former boss Dan Wallace to lead Capstan, which was at the time simply a sub-entity of medical device incubator Occam Labs.

What's next: Capstan developed its first proof of concept robot at the end of last year and plans to start its first small clinical trial in humans at the end of 2025.

  • The system has gone through animal testing and is currently going into the design phase, Nixon says.

State of play: Capstan is entering a competitive heart valve tech sector led by a few surgical giants, including:

  • Medtronic, which has a market cap of $111.8 billion.
  • Abbott Laboratories, with a market cap of $187.2 billion.
  • Edwards Lifesciences, with a market cap of $48.4 billion.

⛵ One fun thing: The company gets its name from the system's collapsing mechanism, which allows it to be opened and deployed in a controlled manner — akin to the capstan on a sailboat.

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