Devices & Diagnostics

Who makes the secret sauce in St. Jude’s Optim technology?

Yesterday, I wrote an article about St. Jude Medical  (NYSE:STJ) that talked about the company’s Optim insulation, part of its Durata lead, which has proved (so far) to be immune to the lead abrasion troubles prompting the company’s  Riata lead recall. I quoted the company’s CEO Daniel Starks as saying that “we’ve been invested and […]

Yesterday, I wrote an article about St. Jude Medical  (NYSE:STJ) that talked about the company’s Optim insulation, part of its Durata lead, which has proved (so far) to be immune to the lead abrasion troubles prompting the company’s  Riata lead recall.

I quoted the company’s CEO Daniel Starks as saying that “we’ve been invested and we’ve been developing a proprietary material that we call Optim, which we began to put into our lead line in 2006.” The lead is 50 times resistant to lead abrasion than silicone used in previous leads, Starks said.

Soon after the article was posted, a reader in U.K. pointed out that Optim is actually not developed by St. Jude Medical at all, but by another medical technology company in which he is an investor.

Turns out, he is right. The silicone polyurethane hybrid that is part of any defibrillator lead sold by St. Jude is actually manufactured in Rogers, Minnesota by AorTech, a wholly owned subsidiary of AorTech International. St. Jude Medical signed an exclusive license with the company in 2006, and rebranded AorTech’s Elast-Eon as Optim. A St. Jude Medical spokeswoman confirmed the relationship and said the company has been involved with AorTech and its predecessor since 1999, and over the years developed and “tested the (Elast-Eon)  insulation material for use with our high-voltage and low-voltage leads.”

AorTech, which is a public company listed on the U.K. stock market,  relocated to Minnesota last fall. Its revenue primarily comes from licensing Elast-Eon and its next-generation product to other medical device companies.

In an interview with MedCity News, AorTech CEO Frank Maguire said that back in the early 2000s, Elast-Eon was shopped to all the major pacemaker companies in the U.S. and U.K. He won’t name names (although it’s not too hard to imagine who they are), but all of  them with the exception of St. Jude Medical took a pass.

“Everyone had the chance to take a look at it, but it was St. Jude Medical who licensed it and they are applying [the] technology in a useful way to make it safer for patients,” Maguire said. “They have succeeded remarkably with this technology.”

So, will Maguire reveal how much St. Jude pays to license the polymer? “Not a chance,” Maguire said.

While the relationship with St. Jude has been good for AorTech, the future lies beyond St. Jude and the cardiac pacing/ICD business. Other applications of the technology are already being cemented — the company has announced applications  in breast implants and sensors.

“Leads are just a small part of the medical device market,” Maguire said.