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Devan Smith had one foot in the grave.
After contracting COVID-19 back in May, he was hospitalized with severe respiratory issues and multiorgan failure.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, the 42-year Pennsylvania warehouse worker also had to deal with a malfunctioning heart. That alone could have killed him.
But doctors at the Mercy Catholic Medical Center in Pennsylvania were able to save Smith in no small measure because of a tiny heart pump.
Known as the Impella, that device received an emergency use authorization from the FDA to treat coronavirus patients only weeks before.
Of course, Smith credits the medical team with saving his life. But he’s quick to point out that the Impella played a big role in it all.
And Bill is not alone.
These kinds of heart complications are reported to affect as many as 10% of COVID-19 patients.
Fortunately for tech investors, there’s a lot more going on here than a feel-good feature story.
The medical device market is worth $625 billion, and the company behind Impella can grab a big chunk of that.
If COVID has shown us one thing, treating the pandemic requires looking at existing technology in a new way.
Here’s the thing; Yes, the coronavirus is a respiratory disease. But it doesn’t just attack the lungs.
COVID-19 causes long-term fever and high blood pressure. It also attaches to a cell receptor that otherwise helps protect the heart.
That’s why the Impella is proving to be a vital part of the COVID-19 treatment arsenal; that small pump can help save lives by giving the heart a badly needed break while doctors lead the recovery effort.
But there is much more going on here than a straight-up play on medical devices, like the one that saved Devan Smith’s life.
With more people living longer, demand for medical devices like these will be growing for years to come.
At the very least, we’ll see demand for medical devices that target chronic conditions. These range from implanted pacemakers that keep your heart from losing its rhythm to deep-brain stimulators that help with epilepsy or Parkinson’s.
So it’s no wonder that research firm Fortune Insights estimates the medical device market to grow by 44% through 2025, making it worth more than $612.7 billion.
A company that could capture even a fraction of that market would be an enormous success.
After all, just 5% would be roughly $31 billion…
Safer and Subtle
That ‘s exactly where ABIOMED Inc. (ABMD), the company behind the Impella heart pump, comes in.
The firm has a storied history in the field of medical devices for the heart.
Founded in 1981, the company worked with the Texas Heart Institute to develop the first-ever artificial heart that was fully implantable. This disruption got rid of tubes or battery packs that stuck out of the body.
In 2001, this device was the first artificial heart ever to be successfully implanted into a human being. Then in 2006, the FDA granted the company approval for this artificial heart for patients who cannot qualify for a heart transplant.
More recently, Abiomed has focused on its Impella device, the tiny heart pump that saved Devan Smith’s life.
His saga was recently featured in an Abiomed company story, showcasing the impressive engineering behind the heart pump.
Unlike a full heart transplant surgery, inserting the Impella device doesn’t require opening up your chest. In fact, the procedure isn’t really what most of us would think of as “surgery” at all.
The Impella pump is so small, doctors use a long tube to insert the devices into a vein near the groin and then run it up to the heart.
After that, the tiny motorized pump begins to push blood out of the heart into the aorta. This gives the heart a chance to rest and recover while doctors continue helping the patient.
Depending on the model in question, the Impella can remain in the body for up to six days.
And as you’d expect from the company behind the first-ever artificial heart, Abiomed keeps finding new uses and regulatory approvals for its main product.
In all, the Impella currently has more than five FDA approvals or authorizations. And that’s just in the U.S.
Versions of the Impella have been approved in Japan since 2016 and Europe since 2002.
That sets Abiomed up perfectly to benefit from, and help with, two huge trends hitting the world right now.
First, the 76.5 million-strong Baby Boomer generation is growing older. The number of people who are 65 or older is set to rise by 44% in the next 10 years.
Meanwhile, obesity rates are still rising and are known to contribute to heart disease.
With an already proven and approved heart pump, Abiomed is in a perfect position to grow here even as it could save thousands of lives.
The company has already shown its knack for finding new uses for the Impella and for getting through the FDA approval process.
You can easily tell from Abiomed’s financials. For the last three years, the firm has grown earnings by 43% a year.
At that rate, Abiomed should double every 20 months.
Add it all up and you can see this is a stock that can keep your portfolio healthy for many years to come.
Cheers and good investing,
Michael A. Robinson