Quanam Medical Corp.
Division of Boston Scientific Corp.
Latest From Quanam Medical Corp.
Dealmaking in the device industry is occasional and incremental when compared with the level of activity in pharmaceuticals, the result of that industry's maturing into a handful of dominant players, not all of which see acquisitions as strategically critical to their long-term success. The less-than-robust public market for small device companies is both symptom and cause of the device dealmaking lull. Because the markets they target are generally too small to sustain years of significant growth, few investors are willing to invest in them as stand-alone companies. And without long-term investor support, smaller firms have few options other than to sell out to large companies and little negotiating leverage when they do so.
Innovative device companies have always had to contend with the Sword of Damocles of unexpected technological obsolescence, but for would-be developers of interventional devices for the prevention of restenosis, the sword is dangling perilously close. In the RAVEL trial, a 238-patient clinical trial on a drug eluting stent, treated patients experienced 0% restenosis compared to 26% in the control group. Now, device developers with alternatives to stents reposition themselves to sustain businesses in the face of potentially shrinking target markets. Many argue that they will serve certain applications better than stents; others hope to work with drug-coated stents to enhance performance, many believe that economics will leave room for alternative approaches, and still others are getting out of the coronary business entirely.
This month's $115 million cash deal to acquire electrophysiology company Cardiac Pathways Corp., makes five acquisitions for Boston Scientific already this year. Boston's dealmaking flurry is particularly notable given the relative inactivity of other large device companies on the acquisition front, and the cold shoulder the public market has given to the device sector. This deal reflects Boston's renewed commitment to electrophysiology, an area the company was thinking about exiting just a couple of years ago despite having a market-leading product. But it still remains to be seen whether this recent string of deals can turn around Boston Scientific and boost its flagging stock price.
Over the past several years, Swiss Jomed has been one of the few small European stent companies to grow into a major cardiovascular device company. Last year's successful IPO was testimony to the company's strong sales growth. But it was two deals the company did following soon after the IPO, the acquisitions of US-based MediDyne and EndoSonics, that will test whether Jomed is ready to break out of the pack and compete on a truly global scale with medical device giants such as Guidant and Medtronic.