Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the leading cause of death globally, taking an estimated 17.9 million lives each year according to the WHO.

More than 80% of CVD deaths are due to heart attacks and strokes, and 30% occur prematurely in people under 70.

Doctors are unanimous on the main causes – an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, tobacco use and harmful use of alcohol.

Against this backdrop, the cardiology space is being recognised as one of the most profitable segments of the healthcare sector.

The scope covered is relatively wide, including diagnostic devices, heart valve repair or replacement procedures, pharmaceutical drugs, and software.

In Australia, there’s been a lot of interest in the segment recently with two cardiac-focused health stocks making their ASX IPO debut last week.

On Wednesday, Silicon Valley pacemaker startup EBR Systems (ASX:EBR) listed on the ASX after raising $110 million at US$1.08.

EBR is working on a new kind of “leadless” pacemaker system called WISE, and has the backing of major US funds.

Its proprietary WiSE Technology is designed to eliminate the need for a lead to the left ventricle in Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy (CRT), and the associated complications.

EBR aims to expand this technology into other applications in the $11 billion cardiac rhythm management market.

Following that listing, Artrya Limited (ASX:AYA) made its debut two days later after raising $40 million at $1.35.

Artrya develops software which automates the analysis of heart computed tomography (CT) scans to assist in the diagnosis of Coronary Artery Disease.

Its Salix technology is an AI-based solution which analyses cardiac CT scans to detect heart attack biomarkers, and produces a comprehensive patient report in just 15 minutes.

Market pilots of Salix are underway in Australia, and the company expects a number of these pilot programs to progress to commercial use by the first half 2022.

 

Race Oncology’s ‘once in a lifetime’ discovery

Although technically not in the cardiac space, cancer focused Race Oncology (ASX:RAC) announced a breakthrough in its cancer drug last week, which it said could reduce the incidence of heart damage in cancer patients.

Race said that its lead drug Zantrene synergises with common cancer chemotherapy drug anthracyclines to better kill breast cancer cells, while also protecting the patient’s human heart muscle cells from anthracycline-chemotherapy induced death.

Speaking with Stockhead, Race’s chief scientific officer Dr Daniel Tillet said that anthracyclines are traditionally highly effective anti-cancer drugs, but their use in patients comes with the serious risk of permanent damage to the heart.

“It’s really common for cancer patients to get their cancer treated and be cured, and then die years later from heart failure as a result of the chemo drug anthracyclines,” Dr Tillet told Stockhead.

“What we’ve discovered is that when you combine our drug Zantrene with anthracyclines, it prevents that heart damage from happening. And on top of that, the combination makes the drugs work even more effectively on the cancer.”

Dr Tillet called this latest finding a “once in a lifetime discovery”, which was actually the second such discovery for Race Oncology after the company had made another medical breakthrough earlier.

In that first breakthrough, Race demonstrated to the medical community that Zantrene was highly effective at killing FTO (Fat Mass and Obesity-associated proteins) found in certain cancers.

Previous studies have observed that the FTO enzyme is over-produced in metastatic melanomas, Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML), and kidney cancers.

“It turns out that Zantrene is a really potent inhibitor, and it really strongly inhibits this FTO enzyme,” said Dr Tillet.

“FTO occurs in about 15% or around 28 types of cancers so by targeting that, Zantrene can also target a whole bunch of many other cancers.”

Race aims to fast-track the latest heart discovery of Zantrene to the clinic, with a Phase 2b trial planned for 2022.

“The new discovery will be super exciting, because from a commercial point of view, we can get clinicians to be finally interested and potentially switch from a drug (anthracyclines) they’ve been using for the last 50 years.”

The RAC stock price has been one of the best performers in the Healthcare sector, rising by 65% this year. It’s also risen by a massive 1,250% since its IPO in 2016.

 

Other ASX heart stocks making moves

Here are the ASX stocks that either exclusively focus on combatting heart diseases, or those that provide ancillary or adjacent services.

 

Hydrix Ltd (ASX:HYD)

The company’s focus is on cardiovascular disease, and has products ready to be launched to the market in 2022.

Its AngelMed Guardian is an FDA-approved implantable heart monitoring device that’s said to be able to significantly reduce false positive hospital visits.

The Phyzhon FFR meanwhile, is cardiovascular surgery device that measures pressure differences to determine the amount a stenosis impedes oxygen delivery to the heart muscle.

Hydrix expects to generate $50m in revenues by 2025 from the current $9m.

Imricor Medical Systems (ASX:IMR)

Imricor has the world’s first and only commercially available MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)-compatible cardiac ablation catheter.

Catheter ablation is a procedure used to remove or terminate a faulty electrical pathway from sections of the heart.

Imricor’s device has 19 US patents and 47 foreign patents, and counts global company Siemens on its share register as a 6.7% shareholder.

Mesoblast (ASX:MSB)

Although not directly focusing on the cardiac segment, this regenerative medicine company announced earlier this month that a Phase 3 trial of one of its cellular medicines found a reduction in heart attacks and strokes.

The trial results of Mesoblast’s rexlemestrocel-L drug highlighted a reduction in cardiovascular mortality, with the greatest effect seen in the setting of inflammation.

Rexlemestrocel-L has been demonstrated to reduce inflammatory cytokine production, generating improved blood vessels within the damaged heart and reducing the risk of plaque rupture in the major heart arteries.

Cynata Therapeutics (ASX:CYP)

This is another non-cardiac regenerative medicinal company with a drug that has been found effective in preventing heart attacks.

Studies have demonstrated that Cynata’s proprietary Cymerus MSC drug is effective in preventing heart attacks in preclinical rodent models.

The company is now planning clinical trials.

Cynata says mesenchymal stem cells (or MSC) have huge therapeutic potential for numerous unmet medical needs, including asthma, heart attack, sepsis, abd acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).

According to Cynata, the MSC market represents a ~$46bn opportunity.

Anteris Tech (ASX:AVR)

The company provides solutions to the challenges facing heart surgeons.

Its stock price surged by 20% last week after announcing that it has implanted five TAVR patients in a first-in-human study to assess the DurAVR THV system.

Anteris’ DurAVR THV system is used to treat severe aortic stenosis (narrowing of the valve in the large blood vessel). It’s also said to create a wider valve opening and better blood flow, and also requires fewer stitches.

USCOM (ASX:UCM)

The Ultrasonic Cardiac Output Monitor (USCOM) is a non-invasive, quantitative method for measuring and monitoring cardiovascular haemodynamic parameters in patients.

Its share price jumped 12% earlier this month after USCOM announced the granting of two Chinese patents for this cardiac output monitoring technology.

The patent provides commercial protection in the Chinese market for a period of 10 years, adding to UCM’s already active patents for the device in Europe, the USA and Australia.

Osprey Medical (ASX:OSP)

This company designs and manufactures proprietary devices and monitoring systems that reduce the amount of X-ray dye (contrast) used during commonly performed heart imaging procedures.

Osprey has a strategic alliance with GE Healthcare which this year has underpinned its strong results, including an 80% increase on its European sales.

 

 

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