To commemorate this milestone the company will host a drinks reception at the Global Endovascular Forum on Sunday, April 10, at 6pm.The company, whose recent product breakthroughs include the GORE EXCLUDER Endoprosthesis – which prevents ruptures in the abdominal aortic artery – has made a name for itself over the past 30 years as an innovator of advanced medical devices.
Its beginnings, however, were on a ski slope in Colorado, US, four years before Gore founded its Medical Division in 1975. As the story goes, ex-Dupont chemist and founder of W.L. Gore & Associates, Bill Gore, was skiing with a group of friends. One of the skiers included Dr Ben Eiseman of Denver General Hospital.
“We were just about to start a run,” Bill Gore recalled later, “when I absent-mindedly pulled a small tubular section of GORE-TEX material out of my pocket and looked at it. ‘What is that stuff?’ Ben asked. So I told him about its properties. ‘Feels great,’ he said. ‘What do you use it for?’ You tell me, I said. ‘Well give it to me,’ he said, ‘and I’ll try it in a vascular graft replacement procedure.'” In August of 1975, the GORE-TEX Vascular Graft was commercially introduced.
Before launching the Medical Products Division, Gore primarily manufactured polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) for use in electrical cables. Gore products were in high demand because of their exceptional quality. That quality was exemplified by the fact that GORE electrical cables were specified for use in the American moon landing of 1969. Bob Gore, the son of the company founder, laid the foundation for the company’s history of medical innovations by inventing a method in which the versatile plastic, PTFE, can be stretched. The application of GORE-TEX expanded polytetrafluoroethylene (ePTFE) as implantable medical devices represented a breakthrough, primarily because of its biocompatibility, strength, light weight, porosity and its controllable permeability. The same material used in jackets, hats and more to keep athletes and outdoor enthusiasts comfortable in the most extreme weather, is now transforming the world of medicine. Today, out of the 7000-plus associates that work in Gore facilities worldwide, approximately 30% are devoted to the development, manufacture and sale of medical products. As the ePTFE pioneer, Gore remains in a unique position to explore and expand the tremendous potential of this remarkable material. To date, more than 12,000,000 Gore medical devices have been implanted, saving and improving the lives of people around the world. A significant percentage of these implants have been made possible because of Gore’s vast experience with ePTFE.
While ePTFE has been the catalyst for numerous medical breakthroughs, the company’s penchant for stepping outside of the box has led to the successful integration of a number of other important materials into its family of medical products. For example, the introduction of heparin into vascular grafts is designed to address the problem of thrombosis (GORE-TEX PROPATEN Vascular Graft). GORE MYCROMESH PLUS Biomaterial is the first hernia repair material with antimicrobial technology for controlling potential operative contamination of the material. Bacterial growth on the antimicrobial patch is inhibited for up to 10 days after implantation. Additionally, Gore has added new twists to the flexible, self-expanding characteristics of nitinol metal in a variety of advanced stent-graft designs.
From the beginning, Bill Gore enlisted the aid of surgeons to produce the GORE-TEX Vascular Graft. Gore has developed and nurtured a growing relationship with the medical community ever since. By sponsoring fellowships and working closely with the fellows as they evolve, Gore has gained unique insights into their needs as practitioners. These invaluable partnerships have enabled Gore to ‘share the vision’ and develop innovative products that fulfill the expectations of pioneering physicians, surgeons and dentists around the world.
Gore Medical Products has covered a lot of ground since the first artificial artery made of ePTFE was implanted in a human in the early 1970s. Product offerings have grown to include multiple configurations of grafts, patches, sutures and endovascular prostheses. Gore products are used in the heart, arteries, veins, kidneys, liver, lungs, intestines, face and mouth.
Recent breakthroughs also include the FDA-approved GORE VIATORR TIPS (Transjugular Intrahepatic Portosystemic Shunt) Endoprosthesis, used in the treatment of portal hypertension, a serious condition resulting from cirrhosis of the liver. The GORE VIATORR TIPS Endoprosthesis has proven to sustain and improve the quality of life in those patients whose only hope for survival is a transplant.
Although these and many other Gore implantation devices are designed to address disparate disease conditions located in different areas of the body, they share a common characteristic. All are designed to be used in revolutionary catheter-based surgical procedures categorized as minimally invasive alternatives to open surgery. Open surgery typically requires a large incision to be made in the patient. Where possible, minimally invasive surgery is rapidly becoming the preferred treatment as it poses less risk for the patient and it shortens recovery time. The endovascular, cardiac and interventional devices created by Gore are the result of three decades of accumulated knowledge and experience.
“We are very proud of where we’ve been,” said John Sininger, Medical Products Division Leader for Gore, “but it’s where we’re going that counts. There are many more milestones ahead.”
Today, at Gore, associates are looking beyond the present product range toward even broader future perspectives for the maintenance of health and quality of life. The FDA approval of many new, tremendously promising Gore medical devices is imminent, according to Sininger. As an aging baby-boomer population begins to focus on what’s really important to them – staying healthy and staying alive – medical devices like the ones now being pioneered by Gore will begin to make the top ten lists of technological innovations.
“Exploring new ways to improve and maintain patient health – that’s exactly what Gore Medical Products has been up to for the past 30 years,” said Sininger. “Wait ’til you see what we’re up to next.”