After about a year as chief medical officer of Abbott cardiac rhythm management, Dr. Leonard Ganz highlights what’s to come.
In March 2022, Dr. Leonard Ganz became chief medical officer for Abbott’s cardiac rhythm management business.
Ganz was previously a cardiac electrophysiologic across multiple practice settings at Pennsylvania–based Heritage Valley Health System. He tells MassDevice that he wasn’t really looking for a change. However, the opportunity to join Abbott and help progress its cardiac rhythm technology proved tantalizing.
“I thought this would be a great way to do something different, but remain in the field that I love,” Ganz said. “It gives me an opportunity to impact patients at a macro level, rather than as you do with individual patients. I’m able to impact the field in a somewhat larger way.”
Developments at Abbott
Within about a month of Ganz joining, Abbott received FDA approval for its Aveir VR single-chamber leadless pacemaker for slow heart rhythms.
Aveir is Abbott’s response to Medtronic’s Micra leadless pacemakers, which won initial FDA approval in 2016. Abbott’s pacemaker has unique mapping capabilities that allow physicians to measure electrical signals within the heart. It helps them determine the correct placement of the device before final implantation.
Ganz said Abbott’s leadless technologies offer a way to reduce or eliminate risks associated with certain long-term complications related to pacing leads and pacemaker generators.
Other projects ahead include a new family of loop recorders and new traditional pacing technology, he added.
Seeing collaboration with physicians from the other side
After 20 years of interacting with the medtech industry as a physician and investigator, Ganz finds himself on the other side.
“You have the initial cohort of electrophysiologists, many of whom are still practicing, that I’ve known for many years,” Ganz explained. “Then, there are younger generations who are making important contributions. It’s really been interesting, making the transition from a practitioner to being on the industry side.”
Ganz joked that he’s “very popular among former colleagues” as they have ideas for research studies or advancements in the field. This collaboration helps him pick up insights from former colleagues.
Ganz described his Abbott colleagues as tremendously talented, but for the most part, they aren’t physicians. With this in mind, he said he offers something of a reality check, pointing colleagues in the direction of something else that may be important.
“My role is to provide honest advice to my colleagues in the company and transparent, straightforward information to my colleagues who are still practicing,” Ganz said. “Having used many of the products we manufacture, I do bring some insight to my colleagues they would not otherwise have. And when I’m visiting physicians, there are common experiences that we share.”
Impacting patients at a macro level
Ganz was part of the earlier generation of electrophysiologists as the field got started. That includes the early stages of treatment methods like ablation, implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) therapy and cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT).
“What’s incredibly exciting about electrophysiology and cardiac rhythm management is that it continues to evolve,” Ganz explained.
While pacing became relatively routine, Ganz said there’s been an explosion of new approaches and technologies. Two modalities that Ganz finds particularly exciting are leadless pacing — with Abbott’s trial for Aveir finishing enrollment — and conducting system pacing.
What’s to come for Abbott and for pacemakers
Abbott has been trying to connect conducting system pacing with leadless pacing even before Ganz joined.
“It’s very, very challenging from a technological perspective,” he said. “But, we’re working hard on it. … If leadless pacing is great and conducting system pacing is great, we want to be the ones that bring to market a technology that marries the two.”
Abbott also has improved the patient experience for the Aveir platform. Company officials believe their nonvascular leadless technology will extend into ICD therapy. Boston Scientific already has the Emblem subcutaneous ICD on the market, but Ganz said market penetration remains relatively low.
Abbott is developing a nonvascular ICD system that will communicate with a leadless pacemaker to provide pacing therapies. The company believes this will create a nonvascular ICD option for a larger population of patients.
Ganz said Abbott sees this as a platform technology option, capable of expansion to other indications. A second platform technology developed by Abbott engineers — they call it implant-to-implant communication — could allow implanted devices to communicate in the body on a beat-to-beat basis at a low-energy cost.
With the new family of loop recorders and new traditional pacing technology set for launch soon, Ganz is looking forward to a big year for Abbott’s cardiac rhythm management group.
“We have a number of important technologies we anticipate bringing to the market in 2023,” Ganz said. “In all, we anticipate a very exciting year for Abbott CRM.”