The “Innovations in Cardiovascular Interventions” (ICI) conference that took place last week in Tel Aviv is one of the largest international conferences in the field of cardiovascular intervention. Rambam Health Care Campus director general Prof. Rafael Beyar and Hadassah Medical Center Ein Kerem Heart Institute director Prof. Chaim Lotan who co-chaired the conference, spoke to “Globes” about the latest trends in cardiovascular intervention.
Lotan: “Israel is a world power in innovation – the top in terms of patents per capita, and first in terms of start up companies. In all of Silicon Valley there are 700 start ups. In Israel, there are 1,000 and only 7 million people – about the same amount as in Silicon Valley.”
Israel is a leader in cardiology innovation. Stents, heart valves that are inserted by catheters, devices to navigate in the heart, innovative pace makers – Israelis have significantly contributed to all of these important recent innovations in the cardiology device industry.
What are the latest innovations in cardiology?
Beyar: “Innovations in stents do not receive a lot of attention, but a biodegradable polymer stent that dissolves completely within a few months or years is one interesting innovation.
“Technical problems still exist though; the stents are either not strong enough and break inside the artery, or they dissolve too quickly and cause inflammation. At the moment, I’m not sure that they will replace coated metal stents. They might become a niche product for a certain type of occlusions.”
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The latest popular products are valves. The heart has four valves that control the direction of blood flow, which wear out with age. Synthetic valves that can be implanted using catheters and without surgery are currently being marketed.
The valve developed by Israeli company Percutaneous Valve Technologies, Inc. (PVT), which was acquired by US Edwards Lifesciences LLC, is one of the leading products. “This is a true life-prolonging product, and there are very few new products like it,” Beyar says.
Other medical device companies have begun to understand this potential, among them Medtronic, which acquired Israel’s Ventor Technologies. “There are another ten types of valves on their way to market,” Beyar says. However, this technology also carries certain risks: “2% of patients who undergo minimal invasive valve replacement surgery suffer from a stroke as a result of an embolism,” Beyar says. “Therefore, the next innovation needs to be a technology that protects the brain during the procedure.”
Beyar is very enthusiastic about the electrophysiology technology developed by Biosense, which was founded by Prof. Shlomo Ben-Haim, and in which Beyar himself was involved before it was sold to Johnson & Johnson for $550 million. The company’s R&D center is located in Israel and employs a few hundred people. The company develops products that can map the heart from inside, can navigate inside it, and can also carry out the ablation of specific points – in order to improve heart function.
“This is currently one of Johnson & Johnson’s strongest businesses,” Beyar says.” Biosense products can be found in every hospital around the world. I ask them if they know that this product was developed in Haifa, and no one does.”