Mr. Emeis, you develop endogenous heart valves. What was the previous standard treatment for heart valve defects and what is so innovative about your solution?
The majority of prosthetic heart valves available today are made from animal material and have the disadvantage of degenerating, which leads to narrowing or leaking after a few years, making repeat surgery necessary. Our innovation is a real game-changer here. The GrOwnValve is the first heart valve made from the body’s own material. Unlike previous standard treatments, the prosthesis is alive and can adapt to body growth. No such heart valve with growth potential has previously existed.
The point of need is obvious with heart valves that grow with the patient. But what obstacles did you face with the spin-off and how did you overcome them?
We faced significant challenges especially in managing the expectations of potential investors. At pitch events, we shared the stage with software projects, for example, that can test their products on the market and show them to customers in a very short time. By contrast, in the MedTech industry, it takes years for a product to be launched on the highly regulated market. So, we need investors who will go along with the considerably longer development cycles. Fortunately, the EU will support us in the first funding round so that we can consistently pursue the developments.
Last year, you received a grant of 2.5 million euros as well as an investment of over 5.3 million euros from the EIC Accelerator, a European Innovation Council program. What are you using this money for?
We will primarily use the funding and the subsequent equity for our clinical trials. These are the most important next step in proving the safety and effectiveness of our products. The preclinical results show the huge potential of GrOwnValve technology. Our goal is to be able to provide a heart valve for life that helps both young and older patients in the long term and ushers in a new era in the treatment of heart valve defects.
Where will the heart valves be produced in the future?
We’d really like to stay in Berlin and continue to build up the company and our production here. The proximity to the Deutsches Herzzentrum Berlin and Charité is important to us as we remain in regular contact with colleagues from the clinic to get feedback on our products. Among other things, the first clinical trial at Charité and the Herzzentrum is scheduled to begin this summer.