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The quest for a lifelong and anticoagulant-free heart valve

Geoffroy has worked alongside his father to develop a small but mighty heart valve that could help save the lives of patients worldwide – but the path hasn’t always been easy. He tells us more about what it’s taken to get to where they are today.

Tell us about your journey to entrepreneurship. Where did it all start?

My father is a heart surgeon and an inventor, so I’ve been surrounded by science and medical innovations for as long as I can remember. As a young boy, artificial hearts that my father developed were among my favourite toys.

But I was also drawn to business and finance, so I went to business school and worked in finance for a few years. In my spare time, I tried to raise funds for my father’s project: developing a heart valve. Ultimately, what I really wanted to do was become an entrepreneur to help bring medical devices to patients. So five years ago, I decided to work on the project full time. I co-founded Novostia with the aim of restructuring the project and bringing my father’s invention to the market.

So even though the company was founded five years ago, it goes back a lot further than that. When did your father start work on the project?

Around 30 years ago, my father started to look for a solution for young patients suffering from heart valve disease. His idea was to develop a new valve that would last for an entire lifetime with no need for anticoagulation medicine. A close friend of his, Philippe Perrier, worked in the aerospace industry as an aircraft engineer, so they decided to join forces. The aim was to combine my father’s idea with a design that would mimic nature and work physiologically like a natural valve.

What’s different about Novostia’s valve compared to other options for patients?

When you need a heart valve replacement, you can have a mechanical valve or one made from animal tissue. The former lasts for life, but needs anticoagulation, which can be dangerous for some people (like those wanting to do sport or pregnant women). The latter doesn’t require medicine, but only lasts for an average of ten years, or five years for children. Novostia’s valve combines the best of both worlds. It uses very strong materials that don’t degenerate and has a unique design that mimics natural valves.

You can have a great device or innovation, but ultimately the success of your project depends on having a team that’s pushing to overcome challenges.

Tell me about the steps your company has been through so far.

First, I built a team of professionals from the medical field – a CTO, quality assurance manager and engineers – to drive the project forward. Starting with the initial idea and prototypes, we made a device that meets quality, regulatory and manufacturing requirements, which was no easy feat. We developed a manufacturing process to make a Swiss-made, high-precision product. As soon as we managed to manufacture valves, we ran final preclinical trials according to regulatory requirements – with outstanding results.

What are the next steps?

We’re currently preparing for a clinical trial next year to prove that the valve is safe and effective. Then we’ll do a larger clinical trial on more patients to gather more clinical data on the valve’s performance. We hope to get CE Marking and FDA approval in six years. It’s a long process!

What has the biggest challenge been so far?

There’ve been many challenges so I’m not sure I can pick just one. The first was that we had technical and manufacturing issues that slowed down the project. Our device looks simple but it’s very sophisticated. One of our biggest challenges has been to make a high-quality product that can be reproduced.

It’s also hard to attract new investors as we’re developing a surgical valve that can help young patients worldwide – and by young, I mean between the ages of 5 and 75 – whereas the market trend at the moment is to develop transcatether valves for older people. So we’re swimming against the tide in that sense.

Finally, working with my father hasn’t always been easy. He’s a great inventor and I’ve learned a lot from him, but he’s a bit like Professeur Tournesol in Tintin. He has many ideas but it’s sometimes hard to get him to focus! But our skills are complementary – he’s in the realm of scientific ideas while I can make the business side of things work. And we’re slowly learning not to talk about heart valves during family get-togethers.

What are your top tips for budding entrepreneurs?

Having made (and learnt from) many mistakes myself, I have lots of tips. Here are my top four:

  1. Surround yourself with competent and motivated people. You can have a great device or innovation, but ultimately the success of your project depends on having a team that’s pushing to overcome challenges. You’ll need to delegate as much as you can to your team. Otherwise, you’ll quickly get exhausted.
  2. While you need a long-term vision, it’s important to stay focused on short-term objectives. If you’re an entrepreneur developing a medical device, of course you want to help as many patients as possible, but you need to take it one step at a time. Take the time to step back and ensure you’re not deviating from your priorities, which is all too easy to do.
  3. Take some time to get organised before you start a project. It takes a lot of work to run a business, so you’ll need solid organisational skills to make sure you’re efficient and have time for yourself and your loved ones. Only by taking time out will you regenerate yourself and maintain your energy.
  4. Don’t be afraid to embark on the journey of entrepreneurship. It’s hard work but it’s worth it!

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Spending time with my wife and my three daughters. Trekking with my friends. Doing competitive team sports. It’s not about doing many things, but ensuring I have time for the things that really matter.

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Geoffroy Lapeyre
Co-Founder and Board Member of Novostia
Geoffroy has over 20 years of experience as a medtech entrepreneur, investment banker and business developer. He is passionate about medical innovations that can help patients.

He fell into the magical world of medicine, science and medical innovations when he was a child, his father being a cardiac surgeon and the inventor of Novostia’s heart valve.

Geoffroy co-founded Novostia in 2017 and led it until the end of 2021 as CEO, bringing the technology from initial concept through successful preclinical studies, an industrialised manufacturing process and preparation for clinical trials. He is now a board member of Novostia and mainly involved in strategy and fundraising.

Prior to co-founding Novostia, Geoffroy worked for Crédit Agricole Corporate & Investment Bank, Ernst & Young Transaction Advisory Services and Edmond de Rothschild Corporate Finance.

Novostia SA
Novostia is a privately held medical device company developing an innovative artificial heart valve, designed for patients of any age, including children.

Novostia aims to provide young patients suffering from heart disease with a solution for life: the TRIFLO valve. In contrast to current valves, Novostia technology is lifelong durable and does not induce the formation of life-threatening blood clots, therefore do not require patients to take lifelong anticoagulant medication. TRIFLO will improve quality of life for millions of patients, while also significantly reducing overall healthcare costs.

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