New ideas fill Medtronic's pipeline

  • Article by: JANET MOORE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 26, 2010 - 8:49 AM

The company has a range of devices and technologies in the works for diabetes, heart trouble, depression and other conditions.

It's not surprising that Dr. Stephen Oesterle is bullish on Medtronic's long-term prospects. After all, his job involves sussing out promising technologies and ideas from the halls of academia to operating rooms all over the world.

"We believe this company will be around at least 20 or 30 years from now. Easily," said Oesterle, Medtronic's senior vice president for medicine and technology. "So if we put something into the product cycle and we believe it's going to be eight years to market, we have the financial capacity and the infrastructure to actually see it out."

Oesterle gave a sampling of the company's product pipeline:

•An insulin pump, now available in Europe, that automatically suspends insulin delivery to reduce the severity of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, a dangerous condition that can occur at any time and is particularly dangerous at night when a patient is asleep.

•A "patch" insulin pump that is disposable. Current pumps look like a pager worn at the hip and last about five years. This pump is a patch attached to the skin and lasts three to six days. It's more discreet and is pay-as-you go, like disposable contact lenses.

•The InterStim II device to treat fecal incontinence. The InterStim pacemaker-like device zaps the sacral nerve to stimulate nerves and muscles that control bowel movements. Approval is pending in the United States.

•Deep brain stimulation for treatment-resistant depression. A pacemaker-like device is implanted in the chest and wires are then snaked into the brain, which is electrically stimulated. Clinical trials are ongoing in the United States. Medtronic also received an exemption from the FDA to use this therapy to treat severe obsessive-compulsive disorder.

•Heart valves that are delivered through the femoral artery in a minimally invasive procedure, without open-heart surgery and the surgical removal of the failed valve. Commercially available internationally, the device is in clinical trials in the United States.

Oesterle described some bigger ideas for the future:

•A joint venture between Medtronic and the Massachusetts biotech company Genzyme Corp. that focuses on the development and local delivery of cell therapies to repair damaged heart tissue and stimulate new blood vessel growth. The venture, MG Biotherapeutics, has clinical trials ongoing around the world.

•New ways to integrate medical technology with information technology. Medtronic is discussing technologies with companies like IBM and Cisco Systems Inc., plus Web architects, universities, broadband carriers, and others.

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