The coming of age of the heart pump, or ventricular assist device (VAD), market is the focus of a very thorough (more than 9,000 words) report on the cover of the November/December 2008 edition of Medtech Insight (http://sis.windhover.com/buy/abstract.php?id=2008400093&utm_source=mti_toc subscription needed). These pumps are one of the few options available for the estimated 11 million people worldwide suffering from advanced heart failure. In the U.S. alone, another 660,000 new cases are diagnosed each year and the disease is responsible for 300,000 deaths annually.
Until now, safety and durability issues related to the pumps have stymied growth in the market, but the new second and third generation designs have solved many of the problems and are driving usage, which jumped dramatically in the second half of 2008 and the expectations are that demand will continue to drive growth going forward. Thoratec Corp. (Nasdaq: THOR, http://www.thoratec.com), the developer of the HeartMate II device, is currently the overwhelming market leader in the space but, driven by the need and baby boom demographics, there are a host of rivals jumping into the market. They include Australia-based Ventracor (http://www.ventracor.com), California-based World Heart Corp. (Nasdaq: WHRT, http://www.worldheart.com), New York-based Jarvik Heart Inc. (http://www.jarvikheart.com), and Terumo Heart Inc., a U.S. subsidiary of Japan-based Termumo Corp (http://www.terumo.co.jp).
One promising new competitor highlighted in the story is Massachusetts-based HeartWare International (http://www.heartware.com.au), which currently trades on the Australian market (ASX: HIN) but has just redomiciled to the U.S. and is expected to begin trading on Nasdaq in the near future. HeartWare’s lead device, the HVAD, is smaller than the other pumps but still capable of full circulatory support and, unlike the others, doesn’t require “the surgical creation of an abdominal pouch to implant the pump,” CEO Doug Godshall told Medtech Insight. The result is a much easier implantation with less trauma, less surgery and a much faster patient recovery. “A truism in devices…is that a smaller, less invasive, easier to use device tends to carry the day,” said Godshall, a former Boston Scientific Corp. executive who is quoted extensively in the article.