Pulling aside the curtain of privacy for a short time, Jewish Hospital (Louisville, Kentucky) last month finally offered the first public view of the first recipient of the AbioCor artificial heart during a press conference. Robert Tools, 59, was introduced to the media by means of closed-circuit television from the office of Dr. Laman Gray, who, along with Dr. Robert Dowling, in early July performed the implant of the groundbreaking device made by Abiomed (Danvers, Massachusetts). Tools was dressed in shirt and tire and was able to answer questions in a halting manner.

The media event offered no additional clinical details about the AbioCor, but it did tend to address two issues likely to be raised by the clinical trial. First, Tools validated the clinical opinion that the AbioCor had offered him the only chance for extended life, which Abiomed and Jewish Hospital said had made him a good candidate for receiving the implant. He said that he knew he had few chances for further life when he agreed to the procedure, the first of five implants projected for the clinical trial. "I could sit at home and die, or come here and take a chance," he said. And his family, he added, "went along with me" in the decision.

Tools' appearance also served to demonstrate that the AbioCor might eventually reach broad commercial use. While all hope that the patient survives for a very long time, Abiomed has said that an additional two months of survival would provide an unofficial endpoint validating the device. Surviving through the first of September, Tools will have reached that two- month mark.

Restructuring activities reported

The U.S. economic slowdown was reflected last month in various restructuring moves in the device industry:

Hologic (Bedford, Massachusetts) unveiled a strategic restructuring plan aimed at returning the company to profitability and strengthening its competitive position in the women's health and emerging digital imaging markets. The company said the plan includes a cost savings initiative planned to result in annual cost savings of approximately $10 million. The planned restructuring will include a 10% reduction in workforce, in addition to a reduction in operating expenses in each one of the company's four business units. As a result of the plan, Hologic said it expects to record a restructuring charge, primarily related to severance costs, of roughly $1.3 million during 4Q01, which ends Sept. 29. Jack Cumming, president and CEO, called the company's new focus an "uncompromising dedication to return Hologic to profitability." The second element of the restructuring plan is focused on long-term revenue growth through new marketing programs, expanded distribution channels and development of strategic business relationships. He said that other steps would be needed, especially in view of continued R&D costs necessary to keep the company ahead of the competition. Cumming said the company, however, would "continue to review all overhead expenses." He said Hologic's goal is to expand its position in bone densitometry and mammography, as well as continued expansion in the field of digital imaging. Cumming became Hologic CEO, president and director following the death of company co-founder, CEO and Chairman David Ellenbogen in June. Most recently, Cumming was senior vice president of Hologic's Lorad division.

As part of an ongoing effort to streamline its operations and reduce costs, ACMI Circon (Framingham, Massachusetts) said last month that it will close its facility in Santa Barbara, California, and centralize operations at its newly established corporate headquarters in Framingham. The move will see the elimination of some 112 jobs at the California facility by year-end. The company said the move of all Santa Barbara-based non-manufacturing functions to Framingham will result in annualized cost savings of about $1.8 million. Greg Barrett, president and CEO, said the closing of the Santa Barbara facility "is a necessary step in our effort to improve operational efficiencies." He added that relocation of the company's marketing and R&D operations closer to its other operations in Stamford, Connecticut, "will improve our R&D efficiency and continue to grow our pipeline of new products." ACMI Circon, formerly Circon Corp., makes minimally invasive endoscopy products used in urology, gynecology and general surgery.

Inamed (Santa Barbara, California), a medical device firm focused on the plastic and reconstructive surgery markets, last month reported half-year results slightly below the previous year period. Sales were $149 million, a 3% slump. The company's 2Q01 sales were up 8%, however, helped by new sales of the Lap-Band product, a gastric banding system for treating obesity. Inamed reported continued restructuring activities, which included closing of its New York office and changing of its McGhan Medical and Bioenterics subsidiaries into company divisions. While bringing together all staff functions at the parent company level, it said McGhan and Bioenterics will continue to operate their own sales and marketing groups for their respective product lines.