Written by Allen Caron
International Small Cap Company Implants First Artificial Heart in Human Patient In the space of six months, a longer-term artificial heart has gone from speculation to reality. Carmat SAS (EPA:ALCAR), an international small cap company, implanted their first artificial heart in a 75-year-old man in France as part of a test to explore how well the heart will work. The heart, which may be able to run continuously for up to five years, offers unique technology that may even allow patients to return to a normal lifestyle. The Carmat heart is self-regulating, so that blood flow is changed based on the recipient’s current needs. Other artificial hearts beat at a constant rate and are only designed as “placeholders” until a suitable donor heart can be found for transplant patients.
This test, which will look at how long the heart can survive in a human subject, may determine much about the future of artificial heart technology. For example, the Carmat heart uses cow tissue in conjunction with mechanical parts to reduce the risk of clotting. As we mentioned last time we covered the subject, using biological matter at body tissue contact points could be a “game-changer.”
Extensive human testing must be done before the technology is approved. Pending approval, Carmat’s artificial heart is likely to cost between $191,000 and $246,000. ALCAR closed January 20th at $107.68, down $2.82, with a market cap of $439.69 million. Its 52-week trading range is $96.50 - $159.25.
Previously, we covered a list of small cap stocks from companies that have created or are working on bridge-to-transplant heart pumps, which can help a patient’s heart continue beating until a suitable donor can be found or as an alternative to a heart transplant. One such company, HeartWare International, Inc * (Nasdaq:HTWR), based in Framingham, MA, has created the HeartWare Ventricular Assist Device, or HVAD, capable of pumping up to 10 liters of blood a minute. Because it can be implanted adjacent to the heart, patients can avoid the abdominal surgery typically required to implant a heart pump. In December 2013, HeartWare acquired Circulite, Inc, which produces the Synergy Circular Support System, designed for less sick, ambulatory chronic heart failure patients. HTWR closed January 20th at $101.26, down $0.70, with a market cap of $1.67 billion. Its 52-week trading range is $69.31 - $105.84.
Minneapolis, MN-based Vascular Solutions, Inc (Nasdaq:VASC) is a small cap company that creates medical devices for doctors, including interventional cardiologists. They manufacture catheters, hemostat products and vein products all designed to help doctors treat patients with heart problems. In September 2013, the company surpassed 30,000 reprocessed ClosureFAST vein ablation catheters, helping to reduce medical waste and lower costs for U.S. vein clinics. VASC closed January 20th at $24.33, up $0.22, with a market cap of $411.34 million. Its 52-week trading range is $13.92 - $24.75.
Advanced technology in artificial organs is well on its way to becoming a reality. However, it could be years or even decades before artificial organs using biological material are routinely used. In the meantime, small cap tech firms operating in the cardiac intervention and transplant market may have a very promising future. Health care investors may be interested in watching this sector in the future.