The beating heart of our international portfolios
By Chris Waters, Senior Investment Analyst, International Shares
08 May, 2017
We were recently reflecting on the rapid pace of human progress in the last 100 years, and of course, the obvious inventions like computers, automobiles and robotics immediately come to mind. However, some of the most impactful advancements have actually been in healthcare, which have helped double average life expectancy since the turn of the twentieth century.
Some of these innovations seem simple in hindsight — such as having doctors wash their hands. It wasn't until 1850 that this was even considered helpful, and many more years before it was accepted practice. Other developments have been slightly more sophisticated, as is the case with one of our new portfolio companies Edwards Lifesciences — a pioneer in heart valve surgery.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death globally and heart valve disease in particular impacts millions worldwide, with a poor prognosis if left untreated. Historically, faulty valves have been repaired or replaced using open heart surgery, which comes with risks and long recovery times. Edwards' revolutionary transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) device replaces the heart valve through an artery via a small incision in the patient's leg. This is clearly superior to cracking open a patient's chest (not least from the patient's perspective), giving similar clinical results with a faster recovery time.
Edwards' valve was first approved in 2007 and was initially used in high risk and inoperable patients. With new generations of TAVR devices and clinical evidence increasingly supportive of this treatment, TAVR was recently approved for more moderate risk patient populations. Ten years after first getting approval, Edwards' TAVR is still growing strongly, with a 32% increase in sales during the most recent quarter. We believe there is still more growth to come. Edwards continues to be at the forefront of industry innovation, pushing further into lower risk patients, and also opening up new markets of under-served patient populations who could benefit from less invasive treatments. These opportunities should drive growth for years to come, and a better quality of life for even more patients.