World first: Bio-absorbable heart valve from medtech start-up Xeltis

University spin-off Xeltis is developing the first ever bio-absorbable heart valves and blood vessels, explains CEO Laurent Grandidier


Laurent Grandidier, CEO of Xeltis, discusses Xeltis’ first commercial product: a bio-absorbable pulmonary valve for children born with severe heart malformations.

European CEO: The medtech industry has taken a hit recently as investors become more risk-averse. Here to shed light on one company that has been able to transcend this turbulent period: Laurent Grandidier.

Laurent Grandidier: First, let’s talk about investors who are risk-averse, as I mentioned, during the series a and b financing rounds. Why do you think that is, particularly in the medtech field?

So, investors traditionally pursue maximisation of value creation, and reduction of risks. I mean, in any healthcare investment there are a number of risks. There are technology risks, clinical risks… but increasingly so in the past few years, regulatory risk; and also financial pressure on the healthcare systems.

So the reaction of investors has been to postpone their investment decisions after companies have achieved certain key milestones that offset these risks. And therefore their investment decisions have been moving past series a, into series b, even series c or further rounds of financing.

European CEO: Now Xeltis of course started out as a university spin-off. How have you been able to prove your worth to investors?

Laurent Grandidier: It has been a journey: transforming from a university spin-off into one of the most promising medtech startups in the world has taken a few years. And I think there are a few key criteria for success here.

First, we attracted the right long-term investors from the very beginning.

Second, we put a lot of effort into forming the best team; reinforcing our company with the best talents in the world that we could find.

And finally, what is really important in the field of medical innovation: we have been able to prove through successful clinical trials, the positive outcome of our technology. This really led to a successful round of financing at the end of last year, which enabled us to further our transformative journey.

European CEO: So let’s talk about the science behind your products.

Laurent Grandidier: So, Xeltis is developing the first ever bio-absorbable heart valves and blood vessels.

Traditionally a diseased heart valve would be replaced by an animal tissue valve. The device we produce is implanted as a heart valve, and immediately functions as a heart valve. It is structured as a porous matrix, which enables the body’s natural healing response to pervade it, and form new healthy tissue.

As this new valve is formed, the device which was implanted is bio-absorbed by the body, leaving only the newly formed, fully functional heart valve in the patient.

European CEO: You have been adorned with the title of being a start-up worth watching by your colleagues in the industry: what do you think sets you apart from the others?

Laurent Grandidier: So I think there are really two parameters here. I mean, the first thing that really sets us apart is the potential of our company. The technology we are developing is not a one-product technology: it’s a platform technology that can be applied to a multitude of cardio-vascular treatments, promising to really change the way cardio-vascular patients are treated today.

The second thing that really sets us apart is the company itself. Again, we have been really transforming the company, building a very, very strong team with the best of the best in the industry.

European CEO: What do you think is the future in terms of investment appetite for medtech products. And the risk aversion: do you think we’re going to move along from that period?

Laurent Grandidier: So, I think some of the fundamental risks are here to stay. The financial pressure on healthcare systems is here to stay. So I think what we’re going to see from the investor appetite point of view is, they will not invest anymore in innovation for the sake of innovation. They will look for innovation that not only can improve patient outcomes, but can also improve or reduce the burden on the healthcare systems.

European CEO: Finally, what’s next for your company?

Laurent Grandidier: So, Xeltis is developing its first commercial product: a pulmonary valve which is intended to treat children born with very severe heart malformations.

However, the platform technology we are developing can be used for other applications. So we also have R&D projects for adult applications in the heart valve space.

But more generally, the company is really on its way from continuing its transformative journey from a promising start-up, into a more structured, hopefully world-changing medical device company. And ultimately our vision is to help thousands, hopefully millions of patients, live better lives.