Acumen Fund Invests in Circ MedTech, Developer of Breakthrough Innovation in HIV Prevention

By Acumen on July 11, 2011

Capital to Support Scale Up of PrePex™, Non-Surgical Adult Male Circumcision Device

Acumen Fund, a nonprofit global venture firm addressing poverty in South Asia and East Africa, today announced an investment in Circ MedTech, the developer of PrePex, a new and innovative device that facilitates the rapid scale-up of male circumcision (“MC”) as a means to stop the spread of HIV in high risk areas. The capital investment will help bolster Circ MedTech’s preparations for region-wide adoption of MC in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“For almost a decade, Acumen Fund has been investing patient capital in innovative enterprises that are leading their respective industries and improving the lives of millions of people around the world,” said Jacqueline Novogratz, CEO, Acumen Fund. “Circ MedTech is one of these extraordinary businesses with the potential to decrease the rapid transmission of HIV in African countries where the disease has and continues to claim countless lives. By leveraging our capital, experience and global footprint, Circ MedTech will have the capacity to support broad implementation of this lifesaving device.”

In 2007, the World Health Organization (“WHO”) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (“UNAIDS”) began advocating MC as a preventive means of fighting HIV transmission after studies found that the procedure can reduce the lifetime risk of infection by between 50 and 71%. Campaigns for adult MC have thus been launched in numerous countries, including many Sub-Saharan nations, where over 22 million of the 33.4 million infected with HIV reside. Countries have struggled, however, with providing a safe, accessible and cost-effective procedure for adult MC. Surgical methods have been much less scalable, requiring surgeons or highly skilled medical cadres, surgery-type settings and expensive tools, materials and infrastructure, all difficult to access in rural areas where these services are most needed.

Founded in 2009, Circ MedTech is a for-profit social enterprise that developed PrePex, a disposable device for adult MC that empowers even minimally-skilled healthcare workers in resource-limited settings to safely and effectively perform the procedure. The procedure is completely bloodless and requires no injected anesthesia, no knives, no sutures and no sterile settings – a radical breakthrough in adult MC.

“We created the PrePex device to address the need for safe, simple, scalable and affordable male circumcision programs in Africa,” said Circ MedTech CEO Tzameret Fuerst. “Acumen Fund’s investment will enable us to create the supporting infrastructure to meet the demand of tens of millions of male circumcisions required over the next 3-5 years in Sub-Saharan Africa alone, helping to save countless lives.”

Elaborate studies conducted by the Government of Rwanda over the past year, based on the WHO’s suggested evaluation framework, have validated the safety, efficacy and supremacy of the device over surgical techniques. The PrePex device makes it possible for Rwandan health authorities to implement a nationwide, voluntary MC program capable of reaching 2 million men within 2 years. Scaled-up use of the PrePex device at that level would make Rwanda’s goal of cutting its HIV incidence rate in half attainable.

UNAIDS Chief Michel Sidibe, who witnessed how the device is used during a recent trip to a Rwandan hospital, says it heralds a revolution in the global fight against HIV.

The patent pending PrePex device utilizes a special elastic mechanism that stops the flow of blood to the unwanted skin. Within a week, the device, along with the necrotized skin, is easily and safely removed. Patients’ daily routines go uninterrupted during the whole procedure. The device is single-use and disposable, and has a CE Mark, clearing it for marketing in the European Union.

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