Perclose: Reinventing the Suture Market
Perclose believes it's found a major market opportunity by addressing a vexing problem in angioplasty and angiography: management of the catheter access sites. Perclose's biggest challenge may lie simply in getting cardiologists to accept responsibility for a problem that defaults to nursing if they do nothing.
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As penetration of minimally-invasive cardiac surgery has slowed, anastomosis devices have become a hot technology, since further growth of this promising procedure depends on surgeons' ability to do patent anastomoses on a beating heart. That's why anastomosis companies have been among the hottest properties at the last two Cardiothoracic Techniques & Technologies meetings.
In the early 1990s, St. Jude Medical was the market leader in its sole product area: mechanical heart valves, which placed it among the most profitable of device companies. Demographics, however, limited heart valves' future growth opportunities and St. Jude needed to diversify, moving into cardiac rhythm management (CRM), cardiology catheters, and vascular access devices, while also expanding in cardiac surgery. The diversification process went anything but smoothly, the company missed its numbers, and investors were quick to punish St. Jude for its integration missteps. In the past year, however, the company has become one of Wall Street's few device darlings, ranking number one in 2000 for returns among device stocks. The company's growth is largely the result of sticking to a strategy that has St. Jude well-positioned in CRM's traditional markets, while also poised to pursue huge new opportunities in atrial fibrillation and, to a lesser degree, congestive heart failure. And St. Jude has not forgotten its base: cardiac surgery, where the company has introduced new sutureless anastomotic technology for minimally invasive coronary bypass surgery.
Abbott Laboratories, a major player in the traditional hospital products business, is starting from scratch in the interventional cardiology device market, which offers large opportunities, but involves selling to new customer groups and competing with four entrenched major players: Boston Scientific, Guidant, Johnson & Johnson and Medtronic. Rather than attacking this market at its base and attempting to develop a full-line of cardiology devices, Abbott's strategy is to target certain unmet clinical needs and address those primarily with innovative technologies obtained through acquisitions, a pattern it started with the deal to buy femoral artery closure company, Perclose.Abbott is also looking to leverage its pharmaceutical core competency to develop synergies with devices in areas like drug-coated stents, an approach the company believes provides a competitive advantage.The challenge for Abbott will be whether it can develop enough innovative technologies to compete without having a broad basic product line in a market that has undergone significant consolidation. More importantly, in an area where J&J's recent successful stent patent prosecution has demonstrated the importance of intellectual property, it remains to be seen whether Abbott's strategy will make it more than just a niche player in cardiology devices, a position that would be unfamiliar to a company accustomed to major pharmaceutical and diagnostics franchises.