Medtronic signs $585m option to buy Israeli medtech firm CathWorks

US-Irish healthcare tech giant to invest $75 million in Kfar Saba-headquartered outfit, the developer of a diagnostic tool for coronary artery disease

Ricky Ben-David is a Times of Israel editor and reporter

An illustrative photo of Medtronic's Canada headquarters in Brampton, Ontario, Canada. (JHVEPhoto via iStock by Getty Images)
An illustrative photo of Medtronic's Canada headquarters in Brampton, Ontario, Canada. (JHVEPhoto via iStock by Getty Images)

Irish-US firm Medtronic will invest up to $75 million in Israeli medical tech company CathWorks, the developer of a digital diagnostic tool for coronary artery disease (CAD), and has signed a $585 million option to acquire the company over the next five years to “transform how coronary artery disease is diagnosed and treated.”

CAD is a common heart condition where the major blood vessels that supply the heart struggle to send enough blood and oxygen, often due to a narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries caused by fatty material build-up (plaque). It is the leading cause of death in the United States and can be caused by high cholesterol, diabetes, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and high blood pressure. Cardiovascular diseases kill about 18 million people, annually, according to the World Health Organization.

According to the announcement Tuesday, Medtronic’s strategic investment in Cathworks will include the promotion and marketing of the company’s FFRangio system in the US, Europe and Japan, where it is already commercially available.

FFR, or fractional flow reserve, is a diagnostic technique that measures how well blood can flow to the heart through the coronary arteries. It is an important tool used by physicians to monitor patients but involves an invasive procedure where a catheter must be inserted during an angiogram (an X-ray of the blood vessels and organs). The procedure is called a cardiac catheterization.

CathWorks’ FFRangio system uses artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced computational science to obtain FFR values from routine angiograms, without the invasive procedures.

The Kfar Saba-based company said the FFRangio has shown diagnostic accuracy of 93%, sensitivity of 91%, and specificity of 94% in a clinical study published in 2020.

CathWorks has said its non-invasive technology has the potential to “disrupt and expand traditional FFR segments.”

CathWorks’ FFRangio system uses artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced computational science to obtain FFR values from routine angiograms. (CathWorks)

“CathWorks has been looking for the right partner to help us expand the reach of the FFRangio system globally,” said CathWorks president and CEO Ramin Mousavi in a statement Tuesday. “Medtronic not only brings the strength of its commercial team to CathWorks, but a reputation of investing and defining new opportunities to revolutionize care.”

Medtronic previously invested in CathWorks in 2018. The amount was not disclosed.

CathWorks was founded in 2013 by Guy Lavi, who previously served as CEO, Dr. Ifat Lavi, former CTO, and Prof. Ran Kornowski, head of Interventional Cardiology at the Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva. The company has raised about $80 million with investors such as NY-based Deerfield Management.

Jason Weidman, senior VP and president of Coronary & Renal Denervation at Medtronic said, “Data and AI-enabled technologies have been shown to drive improved workflow and patient outcomes across the healthcare ecosystem.”

“In cardiology specifically, these new advances in technology provide clinicians with the opportunity to gain additional information to improve and evolve the diagnosis and treatment of patients with CAD. We are excited to partner with CathWorks to offer the FFRangio system to our customers,” he added.

Weidman said Medtronic believes “strongly in the potential of the technology and [is] committed to strengthening our relationship with CathWorks to provide new, innovative technologies and solutions from diagnosis to treatment.”

Medtronic is among the world’s largest medical technology and medical equipment companies, with more than 95,000 workers in 150 countries worldwide and over $30 billion in revenue in the 2021 fiscal year, according to financial disclosures.

In recent years, it has been on the prowl for Israeli technologies.

In 2018, Medtronic bought Mazor Robotics Ltd., an Israeli biotech firm that develops robotic surgical systems, for $1.6 billion, the biggest-ever “exit” for an Israeli biotech company. Medtronic previously owned an 11 percent stake in Mazor.

A back surgeon looks at a 3D model of a patient’s spinal column in preparation for surgery using the Mazor Renaissance system. (Courtesy)

That same year, Medtronic announced the acquisition of Nutrino Health, an Israeli maker of nutrition-related data services, analytics, and technologies, for a reported $100 million.

Medtronic acquired Netanya-based Ventor Technologies, a maker of transcatheter heart valve technologies for the treatment of aortic valve disease, in 2009 for $325 million.

Shoshanna Solomon contributed to this report.

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