Explaining the problem
Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) is an easily preventable type of heart disease caused by streptococcal bacteria. This bacteria is responsible for a common throat infection known as strep throat. When left untreated, a patient’s immune system can turn against his own heart while fighting the infection. This can lead to an acute inflammation of the heart accompanied by high fever (acute rheumatic fever). The inflammation can damage heart valves irreversibly.
The disease mainly affects children between the ages 5 -15, and occurs approximately 14–28 days after symptoms of strep throat or scarlet fever appear. Although children are more likely to develop the disease, 20% of first time attacks are found in adults. Chronic Rheumatic Heart Disease often manifests itself only years after the first episode of acute rheumatic fever.
According to conservative and outdated WHO estimates, 15 million people are affected by the disease globally. Newer statistics argue that the number could be up to five times higher, at 60–75 million people worldwide.
Rheumatic Heart Disease is much more prevalent among those living in developing countries, especially sub–Saharan Africa, due to limited access to quality healthcare and antibiotics. Rheumatic Heart Disease claims the lives of 1.4 million people per annum, with up to 70% of patients will dying before the age of 26.
Although Rheumatic heart disease affects mainly the poor, all current heart valve technologies are focused on developed first world applications. These devices are highly sophisticated and make use of advanced monitoring equipment that requires highly specialised operators.
Overall, neither skilled surgeons or cardiologists nor monitoring or imaging equipment and hospital facilities are available in the countries where Rheumatic Heart Disease is most prevalent.
Due to this, of every 100 patients requiring heart valve replacement, only two patients are treated worldwide. With SAT’s technology this could change.
Strait Access Technologies (Pty) Ltd has been established to meet the dire need for low cost, durable heart valve devices that can be deployed using simple technology. Our devices have been specifically designed to meet the unique challenges of the developing world and its younger patients.
We have partnered with world leading companies and institutions to develop and manufacture the various components of an aortic valve deployment device that circumvents the need for specialised heart surgery infrastructure absent in developing and poorer countries.
Our unique systems are to be employed as a single-use product in the developed world, while being adaptable to multiple uses in poorer countries. The adaptability of our product helps to further bring costs down, making it more suited for use in cost-sensitive markets.
Our product focus is on deployment devices for aortic as well as mitral valve therapies combined with the synthetic heart valve and the repair clip. At present, no competitor products exist that can rival ours in terms of cost or ease of deployment.
An attractive investment opportunity
New evidence suggests that almost 80 million individuals worldwide suffer from Rheumatic Heart Disease. In contrast, 33 million patients are in need of anti-retroviral treatment for HIV. Without heart valve replacement, a patient has almost no chance of surviving the disease.
To put the figures into perspective:
- 62–78 million Rheumatic Heart Disease sufferers worldwide
- Only 300 000 open heart operations are performed in countries that contain the majority of sufferers
- In contrast, the US sees more than 370 000 open heart procedures per year
With current technologies ranging between $5,000 for a conventional valve and $30,000 for a trans-catheter valve implant, our technology will cost a fraction of the price. Additionally, these technologies are designed with an aging population in mind, giving these expensive devices a much shorter lifespan. SAT’s products offer an extended lifetime specifically for its younger patients.
Heart valve technologies that are easily implantable, more affordable, more durable and not reliant on specialist infrastructure would not only offer a therapy for many more millions of patients, but fill a market niche in countries with increasing means to provide better healthcare. As stronger developing countries adopt our products, we foresee them filtering down to patients in economically weaker countries as well.
By meeting the needs of emerging markets, the success of our devices will eventually introduce superior, tried and tested technologies into the industrialised world where the profitable medical device industry is dominated by a small number of multi-nationals. In recent years their business models have shifted from an in-house R&D culture to a one with a preference for assimilating small development companies and their technologies.
The SAT products will be competitive in four ways:
- Unique IP: Conceptual lead underpinned by distinctive intellectual property in four specific areas
- Price: The actual product price will be substantially less than commercially available catheter delivered valves and it will be cost competitive against other alternatives
- Procedure cost: The cost of the procedure is substantially cheaper as open heart surgery is not required
- Establishing a new market: The unique IP opens up new markets by enabling the therapies to be conducted in secondary hospitals who without the technology would be unable perform the procedures at all.
SAT is developing new technology for sufferers of RHD.