Mardil Medical tests less-invasive therapy for heart disease patients

  • Article by: NEAL ST. ANTHONY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 15, 2014 - 4:32 PM

Shegitu Kebede worked on a refugee girl’s hair in an Ethiopian camp.

Photo: Provided by Shegitu Kebede,

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Mardil Medical Inc. has com­pleted the first hu­man impl­ants of its new sur­gi­cal thera­py to re­verse a heart dis­ease called func­tion­al mit­ral valve re­gur­gi­ta­tion (FMR) that Mardil says af­fects near­ly 6 mil­lion Ameri­cans.

Plymouth-based Mardil raised $6.1 mil­lion in 2012, most­ly from a Ma­lay­sian ven­ture fund to which it was intro­duced by Minnesota-based LifeScience Alley. Mardil says its VenTouch sys­tem is less in­va­sive and more eco­nomi­cal than open-heart surgery. A sur­gi­cal team at National Heart Institute in Kuala Lum­pur, Ma­lay­sia im­plant­ed the de­vice in two pa­tients who were very ill and part of a glo­bal clin­i­cal study.

“Our heart team was fas­ci­nat­ed with the ease of place­ment, the im­me­di­ate per­form­ance of the of the VenTouch and the rapid re­cov­er­y of the [two] very sick pa­tients,” Dr. Jeswant Dillon, clin­i­cal di­rec­tor of a­dult sur­ger­y and chief cardiothoracic sur­geon said in a state­ment. The pro­ce­dure was also sup­port­ed by lead­ing sur­geons from the Texas Heart Institute in Houston, New York University Langone Medical Center and To­ron­to General Hospital.

FMR oc­curs when the left ven­tri­cle of the heart is en­larged, the mit­ral valve no long­er clos­es prop­er­ly and the blood flows back into the atrium. Un­treat­ed, the FMR over­loads the en­larg­ing heart and can lead to accelerated heart fail­ure and death. The cur­rent treat­ment re­quires open-heart sur­ger­y.

CEO Jim Buck, a vet­er­an of St. Jude and smaller medical companies, said the suc­cess­ful treat­ment of “two very sick pa­tients” with the Mardil’s VenTouch sys­tem is a significant step to­ward e­ven­tu­al com­mercial­i­za­tion and wide­spread adaptation of “this groundbreaking thera­py.”

The VenTouch tech­nol­o­gy is root­ed in in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty ac­quired large­ly from the form­er Acorn Car­di­o­vascular and another development-stage company that ran out of money.

“Our ap­proach is less in­va­sive, less cost­ly and di­rect­ly ad­dress­es the un­der­ly­ing root cause of the con­di­tion in a safe fash­ion,” Buck said.

The VenTouch sys­tem, pur­port­ed to be the only de­vice that treats the “root cause of FMR” is a “bio­ma­te­ri­al sleeve fit­ted with an in­flat­able, ad­just­a­ble flu­id cham­ber that ap­plies pre­scrip­tive pres­sure to a tar­get­ed lo­ca­tion in ord­er re­a­lign valve leaf­lets.” In oth­er words, it’s de­signed to solve the prob­lem and re­shape the en­larged heart. The sleeve subsequently can be adjusted through a “port” just under the skin.

Mardil is seek­ing reg­u­la­to­ry ap­prov­al in Eu­rope, Asia and Canada, fol­lowed by an­tic­i­pated U.S. reg­u­la­to­ry ap­prov­al and co­mmer­cial­i­za­tion. More infor­ma­tion:

St. Paul Small-busi­ness own­er re­turns to Ethi­opia to help

Shegitu Kebede, the St. Paul res­tau­ra­teur and im­mi­grant, is in Ethi­opia, plan­ning a school for refu­gees for which she and her sup­port­ers raised more than $20,000.

According to Kebede’s busi­ness part­ner and Jane Graupman, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the nonprofit International Institute of Minnesota, Kebede found a tran­si­tion cen­ter in one camp that hous­es 400 East Af­ri­can chil­dren who are sleep­ing on the ground on plas­tic sheets. Kebede is try­ing to raise an ad­di­tion­al $5,000 for mat­tresses, blan­kets and flash­lights.

The International Institute ( is the fis­cal a­gent and a part­ner in Kebede’s Women at the Well International nonprofit that trains refu­gees in lan­guage and job skills as they pre­pare to im­mi­grate to a west­ern coun­try. Kebede was in­vit­ed to build the school last year by the Unit­ed Na­tions ref­u­gee a­gen­cy.

“This is the camp where Shegitu is going to build the school,” Graupman said last week. “She’s try­ing to make it hap­pen. The av­er­age stay of a per­son in a ref­u­gee camps has grown from two or three [years] to 17 years. They are there for a long time.”

The col­umn I wrote last month about Kebede’s jour­ney from or­phan to ref­u­gee to Minnesota small busi­ness own­er is at: Tax-de­duct­i­ble checks made to International Institute/Tran­si­tion Center for Children can be sent to Frewoini Haile at The Fla­min­go, 490 N. Syndicate St., St. Paul 55104. Fol­low Kebede in Ethi­opia at

Attorney Soule starts next act

George Soule, a vet­er­an Minneapolis at­tor­ney who helped Gov. Arne Carlson and Gov. Jes­se Ven­tu­ra take pol­i­tics out of the ju­di­cial se­lec­tion proc­ess, is branch­ing out on his own.

A found­ing part­ner of the firm Bow­man and Brooke, Soule, 59, is hang­ing out his own shin­gle with an­oth­er Bow­man and Brooke alum, Me­lis­sa Stull. The firm will be known as Soule & Stull with a spe­cial­ty in prod­uct li­a­bil­i­ty cases, com­mer­cial lit­i­ga­tion and dis­pute res­o­lu­tion. The firm’s big­gest cli­ent is I­o­wa-based Ver­meer Corp., a farm in­dus­trial and con­struc­tion e­quip­ment man­u­fac­tur­er.

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