Boston Scientific Corp. co-founder John Abele, in the first installment of a lengthy interview, on the company's origins in the basement of a church rectory, its connection to a famous Czech mystic and how it overcame doctors' early skepticism about its catheter-based technology.
There aren't many multi-billion-dollar companies that can say they got their start in the basement of a Catholic church rectory. Still fewer can claim a connection to a famous Czech mystic credited with pioneering research into human consciousness (and, not incidentally, with inventing the steerable catheter).
But according to co-founder John Abele, Boston Scientific Corp. (NYSE:BSX) can. The Natick, Mass.-based medical device maker got its start with the steerable catheter invented by Itzhak Bentov, leveraging the platform into a family of catheter-based products that changed the way medicine is practiced.
In a lengthy interview, the first installment of which appears here, Abele told MassDevice about Boston Scientific's connection with Bentov and his Belmont, Mass.-based lab, why his invention was so revolutionary and how the company won over early skeptics.
MassDevice: Tell us about the early days of Boston Scientific. Was there an "Aha!" moment when you knew you had a nascent idea for which the time had come?
John Abele: A little bit of yes and no. In the very early days the predecessor to Boston Scientific was a company called Medi-tech, located in Watertown, Mass. Medi-tech started in the late 60s and was actually all around one inventor named Itzhak Bentov. He was a very inventive person, but also a person who was not the type you would normally think would be an inventor. He was a very spiritual person, he did meditation, he was a very soft-spoken person. He was interested in how the brain worked and actually attached electrodes to his head which were connected to a function generator in which he could change the wave shape and the power and learned about how the brain interprets these different frequencies. He was sitting on a chair with a dead-man's switch so that if he fell over the machine would turn off. He was actually born in Czechoslovakia, parents wiped out by the Nazis, emigrated to Palestine, later Israel, and wound up speaking something like 11 languages. It turns out he was a very eloquent person, he could explain complex ideas very well.