J&J to Swallow Up GERD-Prevention Device Maker

Posted in Medical Device Business by Nancy Crotti on February 22, 2017

Torax Medical makes a magnetic device that keeps stomach acid in place.

Nancy Crotti

A subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson is buying a small company that makes a surgical solution to gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD).

Cincinnati-based Ethicon, Inc. announced the purchase of competitor Torax Medical, Inc.,a privately held company in Shorewood, Minn., for an undisclosed sum. Torax makes the Linx Reflux Management System, a minimally invasive device made of interlinked titanium beads with magnetic cores. The ring-like device augments the action of the lower esophageal sphincter, which keeps stomach acids from entering and damaging the esophageal lining. GERD is associated with a condition known as Barrett’s esophagus, which increases the risk of esophageal cancer.

Keep track of who bought who in the medical device and diagnostic industry last year with our free Medtech Mergers and Acquisitions of 2016 report.

Developed at the Mayo Clinic, the Linx device landed FDA approval in 2012. Linx is used by physicians in more than 300 hospitals in the U.S. and Europe, according to a statement by Ethicon.

Linx provides an alternative to laparoscopic Nissen fundoplication surgery, in which the upper curve of the stomach, known as the fundus, is wrapped around the esophagus and sewn in place. The procedure leaves the lower portion of the esophagus to pass through a small tunnel of stomach muscle.

Torax also makes the Fenix continence restoration device that treats fecal incontinence, also using magnetic titanium beads. Implantation of Fenix requires a surgical procedure. The most common cause of fecal incontinence is damage to the muscles around the anal sphincter from vaginal childbirth or functional disorders such as diabetes.

FDA approved the Fenix device for humanitarian use in December 2015 for patients who are not candidates for, or have previously failed, medical or other surgical options.

Torax has an estimated annual revenue of $15.9 million, according to a report by the Cincinnati Business Courier. The company announced last August that it had completed a $25 million round of Series E financing that was led by J&J. Other investors included Sanderling Ventures, Thomas McNerney & Partners, Accuitive Medical Ventures, Kaiser Permanente Ventures, Piper Jaffray Companies, and Mayo Clinic Ventures, according to a company statement. Torax used the funds to scale its products, the report said.

Ethicon said it decided to acquire Torax as part of a strategy to invest in areas of unmet medical needs, such as esophageal health. The company expects the transaction to close during the first quarter of 2017. Torax did not respond to requests for comment.
 

Nancy Crotti is a freelance contributor to Qmed.

[image courtesy of CHANPIPAT/FREEDIGITALPHOTOS.NET]