Origins of Medical Innovation

The origins of medical technological innovation are not well understood, yet often contribute considerably to improved patient outcomes. This article looks at innovation around coronary artery stents as an example of medical innovation.

Analysis was conducted of comprehensive patent databases, identifying early intellectual property patents related to stents. Patents were examined between 1984, when the first patent was issued in the field, and 1994, after the first stents were approved. The analysis includes 245 patents relating to bare metal coronary artery stents, which increased from one patent filed in 1984 to 97 patents filed in 1994.

Key Findings:

  • Private companies were assigned the most patents (45%), followed by public companies, individual investors, and nonprofit entities.
  • The top 10 cited patents in the study sample were held by privately held companies.
  • Expandable Grafts Partnership owned four of the top 10 patents. Physician co-inventors of the Palmaz-Schatz stent started this private company.
  • Publically held companies controlled a majority of the patents in the final two years of the study, 1993 and 1994.

Organizations with the most patents during coronary artery stent innovation were emerging private companies based on the work of individual physician-inventors. After these innovations were in place, larger public companies entered the arena. Individual inventors and scientists involved in the early stages of medical technology development play an important role in medical innovation.