Edwards Lifesciences celebrates
60 years of success
The average human heart beats 100,000 times per day. Over the life of an average 70-year-old, that means over 2.5 billion beats. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S. and also the leading cause of death worldwide.
Edwards treats advanced cardiovascular disease with its products that include heart valves and other medical technologies that are sold in approximately 100 countries. In fact, Edwards is the No. 1 heart valve company in the world, and also a leader in devices that help doctors monitor critically ill patients in intensive care and during surgery.
That life-saving tech is imagined, invented, developed, built and even sewn at the growing Edwards campus in Irvine that sits between Red Hill Ave. and the 55 Freeway.
The journey that took Edwards Lifesciences to global success began in 1958, when Miles “Lowell” Edwards set out to build the first artificial heart.
Edwards suffered two bouts of rheumatic fever in his teens, which can scar heart valves and eventually cause the heart to fail. That led to his fascination with the heart and a dream of helping patients with heart disease.
Edwards was a 60-year-old, recently retired engineer holding 63 patents in an array of industries, and a deep understanding of hydraulics and fuel pump.
He believed the human heart could be mechanized. He presented the concept to Dr. Albert Starr, a young surgeon at the University of Oregon Medical School, who thought the idea was too complex.
Instead, Starr encouraged Edwards to focus on developing an artificial heart valve rather than an artificial heart. The first Starr-Edwards mitral valve was designed, developed, tested, and successfully placed in a patient two years later in what was then considered a “miraculous” heart surgery. This innovation spawned a company, Edwards Laboratories, which set up shop in Santa Ana.
In 1966, Edwards Laboratories was purchased by American Hospital Supply Corporation and became American Edwards Laboratories. Then, in 1985, Baxter International Inc. acquired American Edwards. In early 2000, the company was spun off as an independent, publicly held corporation, and began trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “EW.”
Now some 4,000 people work at the Edwards campus in Irvine; the company has approximately 8,500 employees around the world. It is the largest publicly traded company in Orange County, with market capitalization reported as $32 billion.
“We are very proud to have our global company headquarters in Irvine, and we are proud of the local talent we have been fortunate to have engaged in our life-saving work at Edwards,” Edwards CEO and Chairman Michael Mussallem said in an OC Register story. “We have been fortunate to be successful, to help so many patients, to be engaged in our community and to grow in Orange County.”
The Harvard Business Review named Mussallem one of the Best-Performing CEOs in the world in 2017, just one of many honors the company and its leadership have earned.
The Ethisphere Institute, a global leader in defining and advancing the standards of ethical business practices recognized Edwards as one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies in 2018. Edwards was the only medical device company named among the 135 honorees in 23 countries and 57 industries.
And FORTUNE magazine included Edwards on its Future 50 list of U.S. companies with the best prospects for growth. Edwards ranked No. 7 on the “25 Leaders” list for companies “with massive market values that have the potential and capacity to keep growing at a rapid pace, despite their scale.”
Edwards is also known as a good corporate citizen. The company has set a goal to impact 1 million underserved people by 2020 by supporting screening, treatment and education about heart valve disease. And Edwards employees are active as volunteers in the community.