Welcome to MassDevice’s annual audit of the ups, downs and in-betweens of the year that was. For the medical device industry, 2011 was more or less defined by a nagging sense of uncertainty that hung over the world’s med-tech companies like a grey cloud above a summer picnic.
But what did we learn from all the conjecture? In truth, not much. The year ends much as it began, full of questions with no cut and dry answers as we turn the calenFdar over into the new year.
From sweeping regulatory changes promised, but never delivered, by the FDA, to the industry and regulatory backlash against the impending 2.3% excise tax, the industry didn’t move the chains too far in the past twelve months.
Sure, we worried about the slowing pace of innovation and the growing cost of business, but in the end most of the anxiety produced very few results. That is, unless you were one of the thousands of unfortunate souls who found themselves on the wrong end of a pink slip from all the layoffs the industry faced.
Here are the 5 best reads of the year, according to MassDevice readers, a bite-sized view of the five most read med-tech stories of 2011.
In an in-depth exclusive with Medtronic Inc.’s (NYSE:MDT) former CEO Bill Hawkins, he told MassDevice that the company gave him a sword and he handed back the world.
Hawkins spent 10 years in all at Medtronic, four in the corner office and three as chairman. His balancing of the push-and-pull between his long-term vision and the short-term demands of investors didn’t make him a Wall Street darling; some analysts dismiss his years at the top of the medical device goliath as unremarkable at best and disappointing at worst.
But the newly retired CEO insists that he planted the seeds of a major transition for MDT, from a pacemaker-stent-and-pump business into a chronic disease management company.
Hawkins oversaw a series of bets in some very intriguing and diverse markets, including regenerative medicine and bariatrics, and expanded the firm’s plays in the heart failure, diabetes and deep-brain stimulation spaces. Those moves, not the firm’s performance on the Street, will be his legacy, Hawkins told us.
In a study published in The Lancet in early February, researchers accidentally identified incest in children when performing a common form of genetic testing. Tests of children who were referred for developmental disabilities or congenital anomalies revealed "large regions of absence of heterozygosity on multiple chromosomes," meaning that they were conceived by a first-degree relative.
Technology magnate and founder of Apple Inc. (NSDQ:AAPL) Steve Jobs kept his health a private matter before succumbing to a long battle with pancreatic cancer in early October. He was diagnosed with the rare form of pancreatic cancer halfway through his tenure, underwent "Whipple procedure" to remove tumors from his pancreas in July 2004, and in April 2009 had a mysterious liver transplant that the company refused to comment on.
Had Jobs looked, there were several med-tech companies who set their sights on pancreatic cancer and created devices that could have helped save his life.
Five devices that could have saved the technology mogul:
- Delcath’s targeted chemotherapy system
- Treatment and diagnosis from BSX’s SpyGlass
- GPS for the Body Calypso Medical
- Diagnostic imaging with Repligen’s synthetic human secretin
- Telling cysts apart with optical coherence tomography
St. Jude Medical (NYSE:STJ) CEO Daniel Starks is an avid hunter, so perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that he fired off a couple of rounds at Medtronic (NYSE:MDT) during a conference call with analysts in October.
Starks was discussing St. Jude’s strong third-quarter results when one researcher asked about recent reports of problems with the company’s Riata pacemaker leads. The question triggered a lengthy diatribe about a smear campaign from the St. Paul, Minn.-based firm’s cross-town rival.
Osama bin Laden, killed in May by U.S. Special Forces, was said to have had kidney disease, but did the terrorist kingpin get the dialysis treatments he’d have needed to survive?
With bin Laden dead and buried at sea, speculation lingers about whether he needed dialysis treatments for his failing kidneys.
No one disclosed whether or not dialysis equipment was found at the compound, but if bin Laden indeed suffered from renal failure he would have required it to survive. Dialysis treatment involves replacing lost kidney function by filtering waste products from the blood.
Both common dialysis treatments, hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis, take hours and have to be performed several times a week. Home hemodialysis requires at least one attendant; peritoneal dialysis would likely require at least once physician and perhaps an entire urology team.
How bin Laden managed to arrange for such sophisticated medical care for close to a decade is still the subject of scrutiny as the story of his life and death unspools.
Keep reading MassDevice.com in 2012 to make sure you’re up to date on the headlines that continue to shape the medical device industry.