Cutting Edge Companies: Thoratec Corporation

By Heidi Vanni, CFA
From the Winter 2012 Edition of Values

You may be relaxing right now but your heart is not. Each minute, your heart circulates five to six liters of blood around your body without any conscious effort on your part. Over the course of one year, this powerful organ will pump nearly three million liters of blood!

This elegant process is compromised for the more than five million Americans living with heart failure. The condition develops when the heart muscle weakens and is unable to pump a sufficient amount of blood throughout the body. Inadequate blood flow causes other organs to progressively fail, resulting in medical complications that deteriorate one’s quality of life and often lead to death. Heart failure is a chronic condition that worsens over time and is typically caused by persistently high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart attack, valve disease, and other forms of heart disease or birth defects. According to the American Heart Association, there are 670,000 new cases of heart failure diagnosed each year. The only curative treatment option for heart failure is heart transplant, but only 2,500 patients receive heart transplants annually due either to the limited supply of donor hearts or to the patient’s medical condition or age. Fortunately, Thoratec Corporation has an option for those who are not heart recipients.

Headquartered in California, Thoratec is the world’s leader in mechanical circulatory support. Thoratec’s key product, HeartMate II, is an implantable LVAD. Sometimes called a “heart pump,” an LVAD (left ventricular assist device) is a mechanical device that circulates blood throughout the body when the heart is too weak to pump blood on its own. HeartMate II can be used as a permanent option for advanced heart failure patients who are not eligible for heart transplantation. It works by taking over the pumping function of the patient’s left ventricle (the main pumping chamber of the heart), enabling the patient’s organs to receive more oxygen-rich blood. This typically allows patients to breathe more easily, feel less fatigued, and resume everyday activities that they were unable to do prior to receiving the device.

Clinical studies have shown HeartMate II provides long-term survival that is up to six times greater than previously reported outcomes with medical therapy alone and more than two times greater than the previous generation ventricular assist devices. HeartMate II is different from other heart assist pumps because it provides blood flow to the body on a continuous basis with only one moving part. It is designed to have a longer functional life than the previous generation of devices and to operate more simply and quietly. Measuring approximately three inches in length and weighing ten ounces, it is also smaller and easier to implant than earlier generations.

Thoratec’s HeartMate II is the only LVAD approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Given the increasing prevalence of heart failure, Walden believes Thoratec will grow sales significantly over the next few years. With a strong commitment to innovation, Thoratec is well-positioned to ensure the beat will go on among those with advanced stage heart failure.

This information should not be considered investment advice or a recommendation to buy or sell any particular security.