There's been a whirlwind of activity at Boston Scientific this summer, and it hasn't all been good. The company is fighting debt and in the past month alone has announced plans to sell three of its entities--its vascular and cardiac surgery units, along with part of Advanced Bionics. In efforts to cut costs, it's considering making job cuts as well. Now, as Boston Scientific tries to get back on track, it has negotiatied loan agreements and made a $1 billion early loan payment. The prepayment was made on a $5 billion term loan. According to the comapny's CEO, Jim Tobin, the payment should provide "significant financial flexibility."
August 24th, 2007
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Transforming FDA LogoFDA is reviewing more than 300 positions in 20 cities to see whether they could be outsourced to private companies, the Associated Press reports. The original position list included lab technicians and field office workers at facilities where devices are inspected for safety. But it was then revised to include only administrative positions. The National Treasury Employees Union is asking Congress to oppose the plan. And it may succeed; it was lobbying by the NTEU that nixed the agency's plan to close seven of its 13 field laboratories. If administrative jobs can be done cheaper and better by the private sector, then the outsourcing plan should be...
August 23rd, 2007
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Medtronic is one of the unquestioned top companies in the device industry. It pioneered cardiac rhythm management and plays in many of the most lucrative device markets. Yet, despite all its successes, its share price has lagged in recent years, because while the firm has shown growth, it has not made the numbers predicted by its executives or Wall Street analysts. The New York Times today has a fascinating look into read more >>
August 22nd, 2007
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The government over the weekend announced that read more >>
August 21st, 2007
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Titanium oxide-based ceramic nanowires might be a more effective coating for medical devices. Researchers at the University of Arkansas have created the coating for the surface of biocompatible titanium in applications such as hip replacements and vascular stents. Since the length, height, and pore size can be controlled in the nanowire scaffolds, the coating could also prevent implant degradation. The research suggests that the coating could be used in stents to carry drugs that would keep arteries open longer than current drug-eluting stents. When the material is rinsed in water and exposed to UV light, it also kills more than 99% of surface bacteria, making it useful for performing sterilization in hospitals.
August 20th, 2007
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Boston Scientific said it will consider selling its cardiac and vascular surgery units as a way to lighten its debt load, the New York Times reports. The cardiac surgery unit came as part of the Guidant acquistion. The vascular surgery unit came as part of a 1995 acquisition. The company believes it could get about $600 million for them.
August 17th, 2007
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Ventana Medical Systems Inc. (Tuscon, AZ) and Vision Systems Pty. Ltd. (Mt. Waverley, Australia), a subsidiary of Danaher Corp., have settled a patent-infringement case involving automated staining instruments in applications such as cytology. Both companies make tissue and slide preparation systems. Under terms of the deal, reports the Associated Press, Ventana receives an upfront payment and a running royalty through March 2010 on U.S. sales of Vision's Bond instruments and related products. In exchange, Ventana will give the company a non-exclusive license to the patent of its Bond-X and Bond maX automated staining instruments. Financial terms were not disclosed.
August 17th, 2007
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Students at a college in Massachusetts have designed a robot that is supposed to help Alzheimer's patients in the early stages of the disease maintain indepence. The voice-activated device, called MindScout, would be used by both patients as well as their caregivers. Consisting of a computer and keyboard, the robot records reminders from a caregiver and converts the speech into text for the patient to read on a screen. The device also holds up to 200 cues to aid caregivers when asked the same question multiple times. While the pricey device ($20,000) is years away from being marketed, the research team hopes to build the prototype in the next year and find funding for it.
August 16th, 2007
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As the number of lyme disease cases continue to rise, scientists are calling for a test that can identify when the bacteria is active in the body. Current tests identify infection-fighting antibodies rather than spotting when a person has active Lyme disease. A test that could detect the early stages of Lyme disease could possibly offer patients better treatment options in the future. New tools being investigated include an antibody test that could track treatment response and brain imaging that could tell when Lyme penetrates the nervous system. The CDC estimates that 20,000 new cases of Lyme disease are reported each year. It's possible that the figure is actually five times higher due to the amount of cases that go unreported.
August 15th, 2007
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Researchers have developed a device that might help doctors identify the early stages of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's. The Sniff Magnitude Test measures a patient's sense of smell, which can be one of the first indications of a brain disorder. Using a nasal tube attached to a plastic container, researchers release chemical vapors that expose a patient to different smells. The size and intensity of a subject's sniff are important, because those with an impaired sense of smell continue to take deep whiffs, as they have trouble identifying the scent. While the test is promising as a "first-alert" method, the researchers stress that the device should be used in conjunction with other brain tests. The WR Medical Electronics Co. (Stillwater, MN) is manufacturing the device and plans on distributing next year.  
August 14th, 2007
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