Biotech startup Aortica raising $4M to develop personalized blood vessel stents for aortic aneurysms

Aortica’s software lets doctors design custom stents, shown above, which can treat complex cases of aortic aneurysms. (Aortica Illustration)

The aorta is an important blood vessel, to say the least. It’s the body’s main artery, carrying blood from the heart up to the head and down to the other major organs. That’s why aortic aneurysms, or weak spots in the aorta, are so concerning: if they break, the extreme blood loss is often fatal.

Aortica CEO Tom Douthitt. (Aortica Photo)

Seattle-area biotech startup Aortica is working on a personalized approach to treating aortic aneurysms, specifically complex abdominal aortic aneurysms, which are more tricky to treat. The company has closed just over $1 million out of a $4 million round of insider funding to further develop the treatment, and Aortica CEO and founder Thomas Douthitt told GeekWire the company has commitments to finish the full $4 million round. 

Aortica was founded in 2014 by Dr. Benjamin Starnes, a renowned surgeon who heads vascular surgery at the University of Washington Medical Center and Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. He’s currently leading clinical trials of Aortica’s technology at Harborview.

Starnes also sits on the company’s board along with Adaptive Biotechnologies CEO Chad Robins, who is the company’s board director, and a handful of scientific and medical device experts.

The new round will bring the company’s total funding to $11 million and will go towards developing the company’s AortaFit case planning software and BoulEVARd stent, Douthitt said. Aortica declined to identify its investors.

“Aortica has developed a comprehensive and simplified solution for treatment of complex Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) disease,” Douthitt told GeekWire in an email interview.

“In 2016, over 80,000 patients had aneurysms located in anatomy that was too complex for less invasive endovascular aneurysm repair (EVAR). These patients typically are forced to undergo invasive open surgery. Aortica’s technology allows these patients to become candidates for EVAR – significantly expanding the market for endovascular grafts and stents,” he said.

The AortaFit software basically allows doctors to design personalized stents for patients with complex Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm, taking into account branches in the aorta. The device, called a fenestrated stent, is then made and put in place using Aortica’s stent technology.

Aortica employs 11 people at its headquarters in Bellevue, Wash. It faces competition from the Indiana-based Cook Medical, a medical device company that also makes fenestrated stents. Check out the video below to see how the fenestrated stents are placed in complex aortic aneurysms.