LaunchPoint News

Pediaflow wins $4.4M

Posted on Thu, May 20, 2004

The first heart assist device for infants is finally making headway, thanks to a 4.4 million dollar grant awarded by the National Institutes of Health. This five-year grant was awarded to a Pediatric Ventricular Assist Device (PVAD) consortium consisting of: The University of Pittsburgh, LaunchPoint Technologies, Inc., Carnegie Mellon University, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and MedQuest Products Inc.

The proposed pediatric VAD implanted as an LVAD (Left Ventricular Assist Device) in an infant.

There are 30,000 new cases of congenital heart disease diagnosed each year with an annual mortality rate of 5,000 - 6,000. At least 20% of these deaths are related to ventricular failure and would be candidates for a ventricular assist device. There have historically been many problems developing heart assist devices for young children. The only available option today for infants and small children is an Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) system. This system, approximately the size of a Fax machine, is external to the body and can only be used for a few weeks, during which the child is completely immobilized. ECMO is used as a last alternative, and the rate of survival is only 38%. The primary obstacle in developing an implanted heart assist device for infants is the miniature size. The smallest blood pump device on the market is too large to be implanted into small children and even petite adults. Even the best adultsized devices are not perfect, as they have mechanical parts that wear out after a few years.

In 2001, MedQuest Products (of Salt Lake City) and LaunchPoint Technologies joined forces to develop a miniature magnetically-levitated centrifugal blood pump. This revolutionary new design avoids contact areas that wear out, giving the pump a 10-year life span; provides better flow; drastically minimizes blood cell damage; and operates much more quietly. The new PVAD consortium will apply their existing magnetic levitation technology to create a miniature pediatric-sized heart pump that is about the size of a quarter.

“Our approach will rely heavily upon computer simulation and optimization… a technology we have perfected on our previous blood pump projects, including the HeartQuest VAD and the Streamliner…” says Dr. Antaki, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University and Vice President of LaunchPoint Technologies. A promising benefit of an implanted heart assist device is that an infant heart, with the help of a support device, might actually be able to recover and, thus, eliminate the need for a heart transplant. In addition, LaunchPoint is leading an effort to develop control systems for the PVAD, which will respond to the individual needs of each infant. Dr. Paden, President of LaunchPoint Technologies, explains that “The heart assist device needs a ‘brain’ of its own so that it works in concert with the infant’s need. By combining mathematical methods of control theory with clinical data and experience, we are able to develop the requisite sophisticated software for these innovative systems.”


PediaFlow website

University of Pittsburgh

Carnegie Mellon University

Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh

MedQuest Products Inc.

<- Back to: News