Heart failure is one of the leading causes of death in the world. By the year 2030, more than eight million people will be affected worldwide and the associated annual clinical costs will rise to approximately $70 billion in the U.S. alone.
The current gold-standard therapy for severe heart failure is heart transplantation, but it is limited because patients currently greatly outnumber the available donor organs. For patients who are waiting for a heart transplant or who are not eligible, the alternative of choice is the implantation of an artificial Ventricular Assist Device (VAD, mechanical pump that supports the heart function). However, VADs are associated with serious risks, including blood clots, infections and device malfunctions. VADs are also limited in terms of performance; notably, devices currently available in the clinic operate at a constant speed set by a healthcare professional. These devices are not capable of adapting the blood flow to the type of physical demand and can cause under/over pumping, leading to lung edema or damage of cardiac tissue, respectively.
Furthermore, due to insufficient biocompatibility of existing VADs (device materials trigger an immune reaction), fibrosis occurs in the tissue surrounding implanted devices and significantly complicate further surgeries (e.g., heart transplantation or VAD replacement) and patient recovery.
The aim of the HeartOne project is to improve current state-of-the-art VADs by developing two add-on technologies: i) an antifibrotic coating to prevent a “foreign body” response from the surrounding tissues and enable quick and easy subsequent removal of the device; and ii) a sensor-responsive system that will adjust the VAD outflow to match the patient’s energy needs, and avoid adverse effects related to under/over-pumping. This system will adjust the pump speed depending upon information received by sensors incorporated in the device, using algorithms developed by the team. Combining both technologies shall enable artificial devices, whose performance will be comparable to the human heart in terms of sensing, pumping and material biocompatibility. Together, these improvements could dramatically improve safety and quality of life of patients, while also reducing healthcare costs.
Project Leader - Scientist
Raffael Amacher received his Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering (strong focus on automatic control) from ETH Zurich in 2010. In 2014 he received his doctoral degree from ETH Zurich for his research related to the control of ventricular assist devices, which he conducted at the Institute for Dynamic Systems and Control of ETH Zurich. His current focus is on translating research findings to clinical use in the field of mechanical circulatory support. Raffael Amacher is responsible for the further development, integration and validation of physiological control solutions for blood pumps.
Project Co-Leader - Product Engineer
Simone Bottan is responsible for the development of anti-fibrotic solutions applicable to Ventricular Assist Devices for the project. Simone Bottan received his M.Sc. in Biomedical Engineering from the Polytechnic University of Milan in 2008 and his Ph.D. from the Department of Mechanical and Process Engineering of ETH Zurich in 2012. Awarded Pioneer Fellow by the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab of ETH Zurich, Simone Bottan integrated his academic R&D expertise into Product and Business Development activities related to Medical Devices. He co-founded the ETH Zurich spin-off HYLOMORPH AG and was awarded the venture leaders USA 2015 prize. His professional mission statement is “to establish cutting edge technologies in the MedTech fields with high impact on social and healthcare systems, supported by strong ethics”.
Florian Lösch holds a Ph.D. from the Institute of Robotics at ETH Zurich (2002) and an Executive MBA from the University of St. Gallen (2006). His professional experience comprises consulting (McKinsey & Co.), board memberships, and more than 12 years of management experience as Head of Development, COO, and finally CEO at MECOS AG (early Spin-Off from ETH Zurich founded in 1988 and successfully sold to MAN Diesel & Turbo in 2012). Within the HeartOne Project, Florian Lösch's role ranges from business development and support in strategic decision-taking, to negotiation support and coaching.
Barbara Röhrnbauer is responsible for mechanical integrity and mechanical biocompatibility aspects of the ventricular assist devices. Notably, her work includes finding innovative solutions for the pump design and physiological integration within the living body, in vivo testing and validation. Barbara Röhrnbauer graduated from Technische Universitaet Muenchen in 2006 with a “Diplom” in Mechanical Engineering. In 2013 she received her Ph.D. from ETH Zurich for her research on the mechanical biocompatibility of prosthetic meshes at the Center of Mechanics of ETH Zurich (Prof. E. Mazza). Until 2015 she worked in the Mechanical Integrity Department at Sulzer Pumps in Winterthur. Barbara Röhrnbauer has specific expertise in mechanics of biomedical materials and implants, animal and clinical studies, and pump design.