Why We Invested: Sisu

Feb 15, 2022 · 3 min read

Worldwide, ruptured ectopic pregnancy is the leading cause of maternal mortality in the first trimester and accounts for 10 to 15 percent of all maternal deaths. In Kenya, 5,000 women die annually due to complications before or after giving birth (2,000 of which from excessive blood loss and lack of blood transfusion services). What’s more, there is a blood shortage of over 100M units of donor blood each year globally, which is exacerbated by COVID-19, which the WHO estimates caused a 20 to 30 percent reduction of blood supply due to reduction in blood drives, lockdown orders, and other infrastructural challenges.

Making Autotransfusion Feasible for Emerging Markets

In emerging markets, donor blood is costly to process and has a higher risk of disease transfer, longer hospital stays, and readmissions, among other complications. A Johns Hopkins study found that patients have better outcomes when transfused with their own blood due to reduced red cell damage. Autotransfusion, the process of recycling a patient’s own blood, is a common practice in developed markets when donor blood is in short supply. However, US Autotransfusion devices are impractical for use in emerging markets as they are expensive, overcomplicated and require specialized staff and specific infrastructure. Other emerging market solutions address delivery challenges but not local donor blood shortage challenges. Affordable autotransfusion devices can provide a cost-effective alternative to donated blood, saving lives that could have been lost due to lack of blood and helping to reduce hospital stays as patients get access to blood more quickly, increasing cost savings for hospitals and reducing recovery time for patients. Autotransfusion also frees up donor blood for those individuals who are not able to use recycled blood.

That is why FINCA Ventures invested in Sisu Global, a medical device company that designed Hemafuse, as a solution to the core challenge of the global donor blood shortage. The Hemafuse product effectively allows patients to “donate” blood to themselves during episodes of internal bleeding (both trauma and planned surgery). Blood is pulled through a filter to remove clots and particulates, it gets transferred to a blood bag, and then re-transfused into the patient within five to eight minutes. The Hemafuse product is sold through Surgipharm, Kenya’s largest medical device and pharmaceutical distributor, and Amref, Africa’s largest health development NGO, in addition to other distributors on the continent.

Photo courtesy of Sisu

Reducing Dependence on Donor Blood

The Hemafuse product can be used for a variety of surgeries involving significant bleeding or contained blood within a surgical site, including general (ruptured spleen, aneurysm, traffic accidents), orthopedic (total hip replacement), and OB/GYN (ruptured ectopic pregnancies). A single use of the Hemafuse device can salvage up to three units of blood to be returned to the patient which saves the equivalent amount in donor blood to be used on patients in situations where autotransfusion is not feasible. This helps free up resources at the hospital level, decreasing emergency situations and improving cost savings when donor blood is in short supply.

Photo courtesy of Sisu

Improving Maternal Health Outcomes

Over 70 percent of recorded Hemafuse use cases are ruptured ectopic pregnancies. This not only can save the life of one mother but it also improves the amount of unused donor blood accessible for other moms suffering from postpartum hemorrhage who aren’t candidates for autotransfusion. Sisu research has found that there is a 1/3 likelihood that units of blood saved and available for future surgeries will be used for pregnancy-related cases, which likely played a role in the company winning the Saving Lives at Birth award in both 2014 and 2017.

Preparing to Scale Globally

Sisu Global reached a significant milestone in August 2021, receiving US FDA clearance, allowing the company to expand into more than 80 nations, including with the US military.

Sisu’s Hemafuse product is the first manual autotransfusion device designed for markets that lack
readily accessible blood and designed to operate in low resource settings, which creates an opportunity to have strong impact on patients and hospitals around the world. With hard work, dedication, and an FDA clearance behind them, we know that Sisu and FINCA Ventures are compatible in our mission to improve health outcomes on the continent!

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