Element Science has raised $145.6 million in Series C financing to bring to market its rival Jewel Patch Wearable Cardioverter Defibrillator (P-WCD) to Zoll Medical’s LifeVest wearable cardioverter defibrillator.
In a statement Tuesday, Element Science revealed Deerfield Healthcare and Qiming Venture Partners USA had led the round, joining existing investors Third Rock Ventures and Google Ventures to put up enough money to bring the Jewel Patch-WCD to market.
Element contends Jewel is more comfortable and discreet to wear than LifeVest, thereby making it more likely patients will keep it on at all times and benefit from the electric shocks it delivers.
LifeVest, which was originally developed by Lifecor, has had the WCD market to itself since it won FDA approval in 2001. Wearable advocates say they fill an important niche in prevention of sudden cardiac death by enabling patients who cannot use implantable cardioverter defibrillators to receive continuous cardiac monitoring and, in the event of arrhythmia, shocks to restore rhythm.
However, the benefits of WCD have been called into question. In 2018, a 2,300-patient clinical trial of LifeVest found subjects who used the wearable were as likely to suffer sudden cardiac death as those on conventional therapy. A subsequent meta-analysis added to doubts about the device.
Nonetheless, Element Science believes it can improve on LifeVest. In a patent filing, Element Science said LifeVest can be worn incorrectly, rendering the device unable to detect arrhythmia or deliver a defibrillating shock in response to the detection of a problem with a patient’s heart.
Element Science CEO Uday Kumar helped to address one part of the problem when he set up iRhythm Technologies, the developer of a wearable patch designed to record the patient’s heartbeat. The product, Zio Patch, has a far smaller profile than LifeVest and is designed for continuous wear. However, the small size partly reflects the fact that the patch is incapable of delivering a defibrillating shock.
Kumar wants to go a step further than he did at iRhythm by putting technology to monitor for arrhythmia and deliver a shock in response into the same small product. Element's goal is to develop a device more effective than LifeVest, in large part because it is intended to be free from problems created by the incorrect use of its bulkier rival.
That prospect, coupled with the credentials of Kumar and his collaborators, has proven attractive to investors. In 2016, Element Science raised $25 million. Now, the company has expanded its investor syndicate, bringing on board investors such as Deerfield and Cormorant Asset Management that have a track record of backing companies that are close to being ready to go public.
Element Science will use the fresh infusion of funds to take Jewel through clinical development and up to its commercial launch. In parallel, the company plans to apply the platform that underpins Jewel to the development of wearables for use in different situations, including the diagnosis of the worsening of heart failure after a patient is discharged and the treatment of sudden cardiac death in inpatient settings.