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PhillyBioCapital: $80M for Impulse heart pumps; LLR gives Relay $30M to text more

South Jersey-based Impulse Dynamics plans to take its FDA-approved, improved heartbeat assistance system to market

Mount Laurel-based Impulse Dynamics raised over $80 million to take its Optimizer Smart System, an improve heart pacemaker, to market
Mount Laurel-based Impulse Dynamics raised over $80 million to take its Optimizer Smart System, an improve heart pacemaker, to marketRead moreFood and Drug Administration (custom credit)

A couple of more Philly-area companies have scored big investments to boost sales.

Impulse Dynamics, a medical-device company based in Mount Laurel, says it has raised $80.25 million from investors led by Amzak Health and Wellington Management Co. to bring its heart-failure therapy to market.

The company’s Optimizer Smart System, with charger and programming station, sends an electric charge to the heart as it contracts to strengthen its pumping. The system won key approvals from the federal Food and Drug Administration in March, after clinical trials. Impulse Dynamics has trademarked the treatment as Cardiac Contractility Modulation (CCM) and says it has been installed in more than 4,000 patients in the United States, Europe, China, Brazil, India, and other places.

Impulse Dynamics employs around 15 in Mount Laurel and nearly 100 at other sites, including its clinical labs in Orangeburg, N.Y., said chief financial officer Gerald M. Haines in an email.

The company traces its roots to a firm founded in 1997 by Shlomo Ben-Haim, a professor at Harvard and Technion (Israel) universities who also started Biosense Inc. (now part of Johnson & Johnson), Spectrum Dynamics LLC, and other companies and holds hundreds of patents.

Besides Amzak and Wellington (which manages funds for the Vanguard Group and others from its offices in Boston and Radnor), investors include Kennedy Lewis Investment Management, Acorn Biosciences, and Minth Holdings Ltd. as well as the medical-device firms Zoll Medical Corp. and Abiomed. Chief executive Simos Kedikoglou, who has held that job since 2013, and chief financial officer Haines, who joined the company from Mercury Systems Inc. in July, are also investors.

Unlike the many “orphan disease” companies in the Philadelphia area that are working on expensive genetic treatments for small groups of patients under FDA rules that speed such drugs to market, Impulse Dynamics targets the nearly six million Americans (and millions more abroad) who suffer from chronic, progressive heart failure.

“We look forward to accelerating the ramp-up of our commercial operations,” especially in the United States, thanks to this year’s FDA approval, said Kedikoglou in a statement. He added that the company’s system targets patients who “have run out of viable options to treat their disease” and suffer breathlessness and fatigue, and get steadily weaker.

Stronger hearts will translate to “significant savings to the health-care system,” according to Rich Gumer, managing director of Kennedy Lewis Investment Management, a New York City firm that has invested or lent Impulse Dynamics a total of $25 million.

Besides Mount Laurel, the company has offices in Orangeburg; Stuttgart, Germany; and Willemstad, Curacao, in the Dutch West Indies.

Separately, LLR Partners, a Philadelphia firm that invests Pennsylvania pension funds and other client money in midsize private companies, says it has put $30 million in Relay Network, the Radnor-based “personalized mobile engagement company” that sends automated text reminders to customers of Comcast, Independence Blue Cross, Citizens Bank, and other corporate clients.

“We see a massive opportunity in a large and growing market," said chief executive Matt Gillin in a statement. The company says it messages 30 million customers and is adding one million more a month.

Gillin is one of a group of serial CEOs running area firms backed by LLR, whose partner David Reuter called Relay “a great growth story for Philadelphia.” LLR’s investment, he added, will help Relay scale up. Previous Relay investors include Philadelphia-based First Round Capital, Radnor-based NewSpring Capital, and Wayne-based Actua (the old Internet Capital Group), as well as individual investors.