Kobara Medical setting a new rhythm for cardiac pace-making

What started off as a therapeutic device has turned into an innovative product, offering an alternative to invasive cardiac rhythm management for people who suffer from heart failure or cardiac arrhythmia.

Kobara Medical Inc., a Minnesota-based medical device company, has developed cardiac leads that pace the heart from the outside. The company was profiled as part of an ongoing business series done this fall by UW-Madison students.

Unlike traditional pacemakers, Kobara’s device is minimally invasive and does not penetrate any blood vessels or require multiple leads to be implanted.

This is a competitive alternative to the existing methods of pace-making, creating new possibilities for growing children and those who are prone to infection.

Venkat Tholakanahalli, a cardiac electrophysiologist at Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center and co-founder of Kobara Medical, noticed the heart could be paced from the transverse pericardial sinus, a passageway that gives full access to all the heart’s chambers from the outside of the heart.

Instead of placing multiple leads into different areas of the heart, doctors can combine multiple leads into one and do multi-chamber pacing from the outside, according to Tholakanahalli, who is also an associate professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota.

“He looked at it and said, ‘Wow, I can’t believe no one is thinking about doing pacing with access from the outside,’” said Andreas Pfahnl, president, CEO and co-founder of Kobara Medical.

In a poster presentation given at the Heart Rhythm Society, a leading resource on cardiac pacing, there was a lot of interest from the pediatric side, according to Pfahnl.

Pediatricians have the challenge of working with children whose hearts are still growing. Current treatments for children are very invasively applied, and require multiple leads, according to Pfahnl.

“Coming up with a good solution that adapts to a growing heart is still very difficult. They were really excited to see a minimally invasive approach that would be adaptable for children,” said Pfahnl.

A minimally invasive approach would also be beneficial for adults that are prone to blood-borne infection, such as patients who go through hemodialysis.

To get this product into the medical device market, they have performed acute animal studies showing the heart could be paced from the outside. Kubara representatives also presented this information to the Heart Rhythm Society.

Kobara Medical will be presenting at this week’s Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium hoping to tap into the “…strong early stage investment community in Wisconsin,” according to Pfahnl.

The company is currently raising money to make a custom prototype lead and will continue with lab testing.

“We would do a two- to three-month study to demonstrate that the lead stability and pacing threshold are acceptable over a longer period of time,” Pfahnl said.

Pfahnl added that creating a product like this is not a “quick and dirty process” and it requires time to build their product and perform thorough testing.

“What we are working on is solving current needs, but potentially the foundations for advanced neuromodulation research.”

See more on the Early Stage Symposium: http://wisconsintechnologycouncil.com/early-stage-symposium/

By Julia Rennert
Rennert is a Life Sciences Communication major and Global Health minor at the UW-Madison.