Who will be the next Medtronic? What will be Minnesota's next breakthrough industry? James Walsh will provide the latest information and commentary on the people, companies and trends driving innovation in Minnesota. From visionary entrepreneurs to game changing technologies, this blog offers a window into the future of Minnesota's economy.

Posts about Minnesota newsmakers

Ex-Medtronic CEO has a new job

Posted by: Updated: October 6, 2011 - 9:14 AM

William Hawkins, the former Chairman and CEO of Medtronic, has a new job.

He’s the CEO of Immucor Inc., an Atlanta-based company that sells systems that detect cell and serum components of blood prior to transfusion. The transition will be effective Oct. 17.

Hawkins, 57, left Medtronic last spring after Omar Ishrak was named CEO of the Fridley-based med-tech giant.

Privately held Immucor is owned by TPG Capital.

Janet Moore covers medical technology for the Star Tribune.

Devices give runners a new kind of normal

Posted by: Updated: September 30, 2011 - 9:13 AM

Every year, I wander down to Summit Avenue from my house in St. Paul — cowbell in hand — to watch the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon from about the 22-mile mark. It’s an awe-inspiring sight seeing the mass of runners soldier up that hill (trust me, there is one!) on the Capitol city’s signature boulevard. So many runners, so many stories, each inspiring in their own way.

This year, Fridley-based Medtronic has honored 25 long-distance runners who have benefitted from some type of medical technology as their “Global Heroes.” They come from 10 different countries, but for the purposes of this blog post, I sought out the three who hail from our fair region.

Ania (pronounced ON-YA) Ritter is a 37-year-old mother of two small children from Minneapolis who will be running in the marathon. She has a pacemaker to treat a heart condition called syncope, which meant that she could have fainted whenever she exercised. “This isn’t the kind of fainting you’d read about in a Victorian romance novel,” she laughs. Her heart would actually stop beating.

Though a lifelong runner, she was terrified to leave the house for a run.

After being implanted with a pacemaker in 2001, she says she “no longer lives in fear.” And she’s excited (truly!) to run in her fifth marathon: “It’s going to be a great day.”

Two others from the region will be participating in the 10-mile portion of the event.

That includes Heidi Owen, a 31-year-old nurse at the Mayo Clinic who suffered from cardiac arrest when she was just 24. Newly engaged at the time, she collapsed outside of a hospital in Albert Lea, and her sister had to perform CPR. “It wasn’t looking good at that point,” she says.

Owen was diagnosed with a condition called Long QT Syndrome, a heart rhythm disorder that can cause fast, chaotic heartbeats. In 2004, she was treated with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) — a stopwatch-sized device that will shock her heart back into rhythm, if needed. Owen says the device gives her tremendous peace-of-mind, particularly while running. A high school and college athlete, she has run two marathons and two half-marathons since receiving her device.

After Sunday, she plans to train for a triathlon. Her ICD, she says, “helped me to be normal again.”

Finally, it was a hoot interviewing Gary Pauley, a 48-year-old resident of Parker, S.D., who has been treated with a deep brain stimulator for symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease. The pacemaker-like device is implanted in the chest and connected to the brain with two leads or wires that deliver electrical pulses to treat the telltales symptoms of the disease. Your humble blogger has seen this surgery and it is no small feat.

When diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2009, “it was a real kick in the shorts,” Pauley says. Prior to receiving the device, he says his hands shook so badly he couldn’t recognize his own signature, or put on a pair of pants while standing up. That largely changed with the implant of the stimulator. “It didn’t fix everything, but [the symptoms] are barely noticeable.”

Most importantly, he could run again. An enthusiastic athlete, Pauley really took to running after enlisting in the Army more than 20 years ago. “I was a sprinter in high school and a couch potato in college. In the Army, they made me run a mile the first week and I swear they could have clocked me with a sundial.”

Pauley improved over the years, and five months after his surgery to implant the stimulator, he ran a half-marathon. Next on his “physical bucket list:” A triathlon. Only, at age 48, he had to first learn how to swim. “That’s going great,” he reports.

The stimulator doesn’t cure Parkinson’s, but it helped Pauley live his life as an supervisor at an insurance company and the father of two boys. “I was afraid I was going to be a 40-year-old who could no longer work or run — a fat, bald person who sat in the house a lot.”

Even knee surgery seven weeks ago won’t stop him from the 10-miler on Sunday. “No problem,” he says.

Janet Moore covers medical technology for the Star Tribune.



Angeion tests out new strategy for New Leaf products

Posted by: Updated: September 16, 2011 - 12:04 PM

Vadnais Heights-based Angeion Corp. said it is working on getting itself into better financial shape.

The medical diagnostic company, which reported an $81,000 net loss in the third quarter, is looking at tweaking its strategy for its New Leaf brand, which provides metabolic assessment data.

Angeion is engaged in a pilot program at fitness clubs in New York and San Francisco that changes the business model for New Leaf, said CEO Gregg Lehman in an interview with the Star Tribune.

The pilot program is testing whether Angeion should bring its own metabolic specialists and equipment into fitness clubs to handle the assessments, rather than train personnel inside the fitness clubs, after clubs purchase the equipment.

“We think this new system will allow us to scale and grow the business much quicker,” Lehman said.

Here’s how the entire process works: Angeion sends its own metabolic specialists with the company’s equipment into the fitness clubs. Angeion pays a referral fee to personal trainers to send their clients in for the assessment. Angeion gives the data back to the individual and their personal trainer. The trainer then develops a customized exercise program for that individual, Lehman said. The cost of an assessment could range from $150 to $250.

Fitness clubs will still have the option of purchasing the equipment, but it won’t be a requirement.

The success of the program will be determined by increased revenue, Lehman said. Angeion’s board will take a look at the results no later than the end of October, he said.

Angeion’s stock price was flat at $4.32 a share on Friday.

Check out the full interview with Angeion's CEO in this Sunday's business section.

Could Johnson and Johnson acquire Boston Scientific in the future?

Posted by: Updated: September 14, 2011 - 5:02 PM

Could Johnson and Johnson acquire Boston Scientific in the future?

Larry Biegelsen, senior analyst at Wells Fargo Securities, said he believes there could be more speculation on that topic, now that Boston Scientific plans to appoint a Johnson and Johnson executive as its CEO.

Both companies agreed to a plan that would allow Michael Mahoney, worldwide chairman of Johnson and Johnson’s medical device and diagnostics group, to become Boston Scientific’s president on Oct. 17, and later its CEO on Nov. 1, 2012.

“It strikes us as a friendly agreement between two companies that have been fierce rivals over recent years and have litigated against each other extensively in the stent space,” Biegelsen said in a note to investors. “Given JNJ (Johnson and Johnson’s) recent exit from the stent business, we think this announcement could fuel additional speculation about JNJ eventually acquiring (Boston Scientific).”

Johnson and Johnson said in June it plans to leave the drug-coated stent market later this year, due to “evolving market dynamics.” The company had been losing market share to competitors such as Boston Scientific and Abbott Laboratories.

Damien Conover, associate director at Morningstar, said there are some products such as pacemakers within Boston Scientific that could complement Johnson and Johnson’s divisions.

However, Conover said he doesn’t see a major acquisition happening anytime soon. Johnson and Johnson said earlier this year it will acquire Synthes, a manufacturer of orthopaedic devices, for $21.3 billion in 2012.

“I still think they are going to need time to digest the Synthes acquisition before doing anything major,” Conover said.

Johnson and Johnson and Boston Scientific said their companies do not comment on rumor or speculation.

Boston Scientific stock was selling at $6.55 a share, up 29 cents on Wednesday afternoon.

Paulsen corners Obama on FDA

Posted by: Updated: August 31, 2011 - 2:50 PM

As President Obama prepares to address Congress next Wednesday on jobs and the economy, one local Congressman already bent his ear at his appearance in Minneapolis Tuesday about the very same topic.

Rep. Erik Paulsen said he spent the two-minute photo opp accorded to each member of the state’s congressional delegation with the Commander in Chief to express concern about the current state of the Food and Drug Administration and how it’s negatively affecting the local med-tech economy.

Minnesota is home to hundreds of med-tech companies, including the world’s largest, Medtronic Inc., and Paulsen’s western suburban district is home to many of these firms.

“I said, ‘I know jobs are on your mind, and jobs are on my mind, too.’ " Paulsen, a Republican, recalled. Impending changes at the FDA could affect the way medical devices are regulated, an issue that is important to the state’s economy and to patient care, he added.

“This is a bi-partisan issue,” Paulsen said, noting he’s worked with his Democratic brethren on the issue.

And Obama’s response? The president is apparently aware of the issues associated with the FDA and promised to get back in touch with Paulsen once Congress is in session next week.

Janet Moore covers medical technology for the Star Tribune.




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