Rather than continuing a drawn-out and expensive legal battle, Guidant (Indianapolis, Indiana) and the Cordis (Miami Lakes, Florida) unit of Johnson & Johnson (New Brunswick, New Jersey) have shaken hands and formed a variety of agreements.

Guidant has given Cordis the right to market and sell rapid exchange catheters and stent delivery systems to its U.S. customers, and the two companies have granted to each other access to various patents in the field of intravascular brachytherapy. This is a relatively new technology which uses the strategy of applying radiation to help prevent and treat restenosis in patients undergoing angioplasty or stent procedures.

In the agreement, the companies are dismissing existing patent litigation between them, saying they will settle any future patent disputes by means of arbitration.

Under a separate agreement between Impulse Dynamics NV and Guidant, Guidant will receive the right to acquire cardiovascular rights, exclusive in the implantable medical devices field, to technology under development by Impulse. Cordis will receive a sole license to certain external cardiovascular applications of that technology, and Guidant will have equal rights to external cardiovascular applications of the technology. Impulse is a privately held company, founded by Shlomo Ben-Haim, MD, and Lewis Pell, engaged in the research and development of technologies in the field of electrical signals affecting muscle control for treatment of heart disease and other diseases. Besides having corporate headquarters in the U.S., the company operates R&D facilities in the U.S. and Israel.

Robert Croce, a J&J group chairman responsible for Cordis's worldwide operations, said the agreements "will significantly enhance our existing strong product portfolio and development pipeline." Cordis will be able to sell rapid exchange catheters in the U.S., incorporating them with its own angioplasty balloon and stent technologies. Rapid exchange catheters are used by physicians in interventional cardiology and radiology procedures. "We will be able to participate in the large and growing rapid exchange portion of the U.S. market, and to provide our customers with our state-of-the-art technology on their choice of delivery platforms," said Cordis President Jesse Penn. "The radiation intellectual property and other technology included in the agreement will help to position Cordis for long-term leadership in interventional cardiology and radiology."

Established in 1959, Cordis is a manufacturer of products for interventional medicine, minimally invasive computer-based imaging, and electrophysiology. J&J purchased Cordis in 1996, combining it with its cardiology unit. It currently employs about 3,500 worldwide.

Boston Scientific files suit against Medtronic

Boston Scientific (Natick, Massachusetts) has filed a patent infringement suit against Medtronic AVE (Minneapolis, Minnesota) to enforce the Bonzel Rapid Exchange patent rights it received with its acquisition of Schneider Worldwide in September 1998. Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, the suit charges that the S670 Rapid Exchange Coronary Stent System, manufactured and sold by Medtronic AVE, infringes the Bonzel patent. Boston Scientific is seeking damages and both preliminary and permanent injunctive relief. Rapid exchange technology – also known as monorail catheter technology – allows physicians to more easily exchange balloon catheters during a procedure, thus reducing procedure time and costs and improving patient safety.

Jim Tobin, Boston Scientific president and CEO, said that his company had made a major investment in acquiring Schneider and its intellectual property rights and that it will "vigorously enforce and protect its intellectual property." Boston Scientific makes medical devices for a broad range of interventional medical specialties.

Vista ends Medtronic distribution pacts

Vista Medical Technologies (Carlsbad, California) and Medtronic have terminated three agreements related to the distribution of Vista's Series 8000 Visualization and Information System for cardiac surgery and non-exclusive distribution of the StereoSite System for neurosurgery. The companies also developed a transition agreement for Medtronic to assist Vista in concluding sales during a six-month period. If successful, Medtronic will be compensated by receiving $1 million in Vista common stock, which Vista says it has already reserved. The new agreements also call for Vista to assume servicing and customer support for its products previously sold by Medtronic.

John Lyon, president and CEO of Vista, said that the market for the company's 3-D visualization technology in minimally invasive cardiac surgery had not developed as anticipated and that Vista would be focusing on other markets with greater growth potential. "I would also emphasize that we continue to have a strong belief in the future of totally endoscopic heart bypass surgery, and in the key role of our Series 8000, when it is used in combination with other complementary enabling technology." Lyon said the company is developing a separate distribution agreement for the Series 8000 with another company which he did not name, but which he described as an international cardiac products firm. That company will distribute the Series 8000 internationally "as the visualization platform for the utilization of new technology they are developing to enable closed-chest heart bypass surgery."

News of new financings

CardioNet (San Diego, California) reported closing a $5 million round of venture capital financing to support development of a wireless, real-time, ambulatory, cardiac monitoring service for people with cardiovascular disease. The proceeds will be used to complete the development of the CardioNet System and ready it for marketing. A pager-sized device worn by the patient, the CardioNet monitor continuously acquires and analyzes a high-resolution ECG signal. If thresholds set by the patient's physician are exceeded, the monitor alerts the patient and forwards ECG data to the CardioNet Monitoring Center. The CardioNet System also will enable doctors to conduct "virtual" office visits through the Internet, observing the ECG status of patients on the service, and may be adapted to a number of other disease states.

CardioTech International (Woburn, Massachusetts) reported raising $1.25 million through the voluntary exercise of 839,000 common stock purchase warrants. The company said the funds will be used primarily for marketing and distribution of its Vasculink Vascular Access Graft overseas, and development of the MyoLink Peripheral Graft. CardioTech develops small-bore vascular graft devices using Chronoflex polyurethane materials, and its CT Biomaterials Division makes polymer-based materials. As part of a private financing in late 1998, Cardiotech issued approximately 1.8 million common stock purchase warrants to subscribers. It has just under 1.03 million warrants outstanding, approximating $1.5 million in additional available working capital.

PLC Systems (Franklin, Massachusetts), a pioneer in developing the transmyocardial revascularization (TMR) treatment for alleviating angina and other cardiovascular problems, has raised $5.37 million through the sale of 2.68 million shares of common stock to two institutional investors. The proceeds will go to expanding the company's sales staff and marketing, plus other corporate purposes. PLC Systems President and CEO Mark Tauscher said the additional sales coverage will assist the company in promoting the Heart Laser System and will enable PLC "to continue fostering new technology development."