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From Academia to Commercial Success: An Interview with Frank Litvack, MD

Executive Summary

In the world of medical device start-ups, physician entrepreneurs are legion. But Frank Litvack is not your typical physician entrepreneur. Rather, he's parlayed a strong background as an academic researcher and practicing clinician into a successful career in device start-ups, culminating in the recent purchase of drug-eluting stent pioneer Conor MedSystems by Johnson & Johnson for $1.4 billion.

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Behind the DES Debate: A New Model for Device Development?

The drug-eluting stent is the rare cardiovascular device that has seen large companies dominate not just sales and distribution channels, but product development as well. But this big company dominance/small company exclusion in DES seems to be reversing itself, at least in part, if vibes from this year's PCR are to be trusted. Over the past half year or so, a series of newly released and much debated clinical studies, including BASKET-LATE and the Swedish DES registry SCAAR, have focused attention on DES safety issues, highlighting a small but meaningful risk of late-stent thrombosis, while the COURAGE trial has even pointed to efficacy concerns of percutaneous interventions, generally speaking. And that's opened the door to dozens of small and mid-sized companies that suddenly find themselves in the enviable position of seeing market and clinical pressures accelerating demand for quick development of their technologies.

Behind the DES Debate: A New Model for Device Development?

The drug-eluting stent is the rare cardiovascular device that has seen large companies dominate not just sales and distribution channels, but product development as well. But this big company dominance/small company exclusion in DES seems to be reversing itself, at least in part, if vibes from this year's PCR are to be trusted. Over the past half year or so, a series of newly released and much debated clinical studies, including BASKET-LATE and the Swedish DES registry SCAAR, have focused attention on DES safety issues, highlighting a small but meaningful risk of late-stent thrombosis, while the COURAGE trial has even pointed to efficacy concerns of percutaneous interventions, generally speaking. And that's opened the door to dozens of small and mid-sized companies that suddenly find themselves in the enviable position of seeing market and clinical pressures accelerating demand for quick development of their technologies.

Conor: An Outsider Delivers Drug-Stents' Next Generation

Drug-eluting stents (DES), now approved in the US, will be the first blockbuster combination drug/device product to hit the market. First generation DES products use a stent design that remains basically unchanged from bare metal stents, bascially adding thin layers of drug and polymer coatings. Conor Medsystems is developing a stent that is specifically designed as a drug delivery vehicle, while still embodying the attributes required of a standard stent. Conor's stent is based on work done by an engineer with no expereince in the medical products industry, based on technology developed in other areas, bringing a fresh look to the future of combining drugs and stents that may extend to therapeutic applications beyond treating only cardiovascular disease.

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