Our Story: Treating More Conditions
In the 1970s and 80s, we began leveraging our expertise to treat even more chronic conditions.
Our Neurological division was officially established in 1976. By then, our investment in pain stimulation research began paying dividends. We had introduced a deep-brain stimulator and spinal cord stimulator to relieve chronic pain, and an electro-spinal product for treating scoliosis.
In 1977, we established a Heart Valves division and introduced the Medtronic Hall mechanical heart valve. This prosthetic valve – named for Dr. Karl Victor Hall, who invented and first implanted it – had no welds, joints, or bends that could eventually weaken the valve's structure.
From 1985 to the end of the decade, under the leadership of new president and chief executive officer Winston R. (Win) Wallin, the company diversified even more. Research spending doubled between 1985 and 1988, going from $37 million to $75 million. Internal development of such products as implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs and the SynchroMed® drug delivery system expanded the product line into new areas.
The SynchroMed drug pump was the world's first programmable pump to deliver medication to the spinal cord for the treatment of spasticity, and malignant and non-malignant pain.
During the decade, our drug delivery expertise was used to improve cardiac pacemaker leads, as well. We introduced leads tipped with a small amount of a steroid drug that helped reduce tissue inflammation upon insertion into the heart muscle.
In addition, we acquired nearly a dozen medical technology companies, enabling Medtronic to enter new markets, such as tissue heart valves, cardiopulmonary equipment, coronary angioplasty catheters, and centrifugal blood pumps.
With the 1987 purchase of the Johnson & Johnson Cardiovascular Division, Medtronic acquired the Hancock porcine valve.
Building on Success
When William W. (Bill) George became Medtronic's president and chief executive officer in 1989, annual revenues had surpassed the $1 billion mark. We were already well on our way to introducing a steady pipeline of innovation: Products 2 years old or newer accounted for 40% of those revenues, up from 14% just 6 years earlier.
Under George's leadership, Medtronic acquired or made minority investments in numerous medical technology companies – most of them market leaders – to expand our reach in many markets worldwide. Strategic acquisitions included Sofamor Danek, a global leader in the spinal technologies market, and Arterial Vascular Engineering, which gave us a significant share of the worldwide coronary stenting market.
Through these acquisitions and internal development, Medtronic successfully made the transition from a company with a limited product line into a multinational, diversified, medical technology corporation.
Our new life-changing technologies included smaller cardiac pacemakers with greater longevity; ICDs to prevent sudden cardiac arrest; neuromodulation devices to treat pain and movement disorders such as Parkinson's disease; surgical devices and stents to treat coronary artery disease and reduce the incidence of repeat surgeries; therapies to treat numerous spinal conditions; and tools for ear, nose, and throat surgery.
As implantable cardioverter-defibrillators decreased in size during the 1990s, their functionality increased.
During the 1990s, we also built on our successful partnerships with healthcare professionals outside Medtronic. For example, to help contain rising healthcare costs, we introduced the Cardiovascular Alliance. It brought together leading hospitals, physicians, and Medtronic in a long-term contractual agreement aimed at improving therapeutic outcomes and meeting economic challenges.
We also collaborated with other companies to develop or improve therapies. One example is our work with Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. on anti-spastic medication, the drug used in our ITB Therapy. It's improving the quality of life for thousands of patients with severe spasticity.
The current Medtronic logo, introduced in 1999, features an adaptation of a rising human figure to reinforce the key benefit of our work.
By 1999, Medtronic employed more than 22,000 people around the world who helped improve the lives of 1.5 million patients a year. We were named by FORTUNE magazine as one of America's "100 Best Companies to Work For", a recognition we've received several times over the years.
1999 also marked our 50th anniversary, celebrated with the introduction of a new Medtronic logo, which we still use today.