Cardialen, a Minneapolis startup working on a project that it calls the first new form of implantable defibrillator therapy in decades, has raised $17 million in a Series B funding round toward its goal.

Cardialen is working to commercialize a discovery by bioengineer Igor Efimov, whose federally funded laboratory at George Washington University developed a way to defibrillate the heart without high-voltage shocks. Known as “unpinning termination” (UPT), the technique involves using a precisely timed series of low-voltage pulses to reset the heart’s electric system, rather than one big shock.

It’s akin to using a circuit-breaker switch to address an electric problem in a specific room, rather than hitting the switch on power to the whole house. So far the basic concept has worked in animal testing and early human-feasibility studies to bring abnormally fast heart beats back into normal sinus rhythm through a series of smaller pulses.

“Early UPT therapy results look promising and we’re looking forward to partnering with Cardialen on this innovative approach,” Jay Schmelter, managing director of RiverVest Venture Partners, said in an announcement about the Series B round. RiverVest led the round, along with Qiming Venture Partners, HBM Healthcare Investments and Cultivation Capital.

The money will be used to continue clinical testing of the UPT concept in humans, and to start development of an implantable device to deliver the therapy. Cardialen’s work is investigational, and it’s not clear when it could lead to an application for marketing approval in the U.S.

“If you look at [implantable] defibrillators, the last critical change in the fundamental therapy was back in the ’90s,” Cardialen CEO Jeff Peters said Wednesday. “What we’re doing is very different. We’re not looking at a slightly better device or slightly better detection. What we are trying to do is look at a new therapeutic approach, which is a sequence of low-energy pulses, to accomplish what that high energy does.”

Traditional implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) can restart a stopped heart or restore normal rhythm by delivering a high-voltage shock, which reliably resets the electrical activity in the heart, but is also painful.

“Today’s implantable defibrillator therapy generates painful high-energy shocks that are associated with undesirable mortality that is expected to be reduced for patients receiving fewer shocks or a low-energy therapy,” Efimov said in a statement on Wednesday. “Our goal with UPT therapy is to reduce the negative effects of high-energy therapy and provide a better quality of life for patients.”