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Will AI Play a Large Role for Edwards in 2019?

Edwards might be primarily known for its TAVR systems, but the company has been making some interesting forays into the artificial intelligence realm.

Artificial intelligence could play a much bigger role in boosting Edwards Lifesciences’ revenues going forward. During its most recent earnings call, the Irvine, CA-based company’s CEO said its software for the HemoSphere should be significant growth driver this year.

HemoSphere is a monitor that gives insight on a patient’s physiologic status and can analyze trends. Late last year, the company received a nod from FDA for Acumen Hypotension Prediction Index, a software that adds an AI component to the platform.

“This platform is designed to provide greater clarity on a patient's hemodynamic status and enables our AI capabilities,” Edwards Lifesciences CEO Michael Mussallem, said according to a Seeking Alpha Transcript. “This new monitor should continue to be an important growth driver for our critical care product line, although, year-over-year comparisons will become more difficult in 2019.”

He added, "we continue to collect clinical evidence on this technology, which introduces AI to hemodynamic monitoring through a machine learning data-driven algorithm that indicates the likelihood of a hypotensive or low blood pressure event before it occurs.”

It might seem out of the ordinary for Edwards, which is primarily known for its structural heart offerings, to enter into the AI realm. However, this isn't the company's first foray into the space. In December, the transcatheter aortic valve replacement pioneer formed a partnership with San Francisco-based Bay Labs. The goal of the collaboration, which has multiple initiatives, is to improve the detection of heart disease.

Some of the initiatives include, the development of new AI-powered algorithms in Bay Labs’ EchoMD measurement and interpretation software suite; support for ongoing clinical studies at institutions; and the integration of EchoMD algorithms into Edwards Lifesciences’ CardioCare quality care navigation platform.

Position in the TAVR Market?

Edwards continues to have a solid footing in the TAVR market – despite growing competition, according to its most recently released earnings. The firm (fresh off settling a patent lawsuit with Boston Scientific) topped earnings per share consensus. However, the firm missed on full-year sales expectations.

The company said it expects revenue between $950 million to $1.01 billion for 1Q19. The firm said it could also have full-year earnings between $5.05 to $5.30 per share.

"Regarding the [4Q18] print, we think the most salient takeaway is that the TAVR market overall remains strong - mid-teens growth globally in [4Q18]- and we expect similar growth in 2019 for Edwards,” said Jason Mills, an analyst with Canaccord Genuity.

Mills added, “Edwards has spent the past two decades building a formidable “base” within what we believe is one of the biggest Target Addressable Market opportunities in med- tech – structural heart. While the 4Q18 print didn’t deliver eye-popping upside, results were solid, and now we can train our focus on what we think could be an enormously action-packed, catalytic year for Edwards’ development of its structural heart dynasty. We think the stock will outperform large-cap med-tech via strong performance relative to guidance/consensus estimates, as well as achieving the multiple milestones."

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