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Angus Steer, Medical Device
Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on January 20, 1999. All rights reserved.
Take one carotid artery from an Angus steer’s neck
and use it to make an artificial blood vessel. Graft the blood vessel
into the arm of a patient who needs frequent dialysis. End the tiresome
search for healthy veins that results in a patient being "stuck"
over and over again.
Artegraft, a medical device manufacturer, was acquired from Johnson
& Johnson six years ago, funded by a private investment group. Last
fall it moved to 4,500 square feet at North Center Drive, and it is
growing by 15 percent a year (the company declined to provide sales
figures). Richard A. Gibson has been president and CEO since 1996.
Scott T. Waters is the manager, quality assurance.
The son of a career naval officer, Rick Gibson majored in sociology
at Lycoming College, Class of ’68, and taught school for several years
before going into the medical products industry. He has worked for
C.R. Bard, Sterling Drug, and then Biosearch, a Branchburg firm (U.S.
1, October 28, 1998). Gibson then started a company, ENtech, for enteral
delivery; it provided nutrition support with nasogastric feeding tubes
and gastrostomy catheters. The firm’s largest investor merged the
young company into its medical division, and Gibson stayed on for
six years before accepting this CEO’s job.
The Artegraft product was developed by Norman Rosenberg MD at the
former Middlesex General Hospital, now Robert Wood Johnson. Three
of the eight employees actually make the vascular access grafts, and
two of them have been doing it since the technology was used for the
The arteries are detached from the steers at a USDA-approved slaughterhouse
in Texas and overnighted to North Brunswick. After being processed
and sterilized, they are shipped to hospitals within the United States.
The clients for this $700 item are vascular surgeons. They attach
one end to the patient’s artery and complete the loop by connecting
the other end to a vein. The implant is permanent.
"We are the only ones who make this type of biological graft,"
says Gibson. "The artery is chemically processed to be a nonantegenic
implant so that it does not get rejected." As of now the only
competitive commercial arterial graft for dialysis uses polytetrafluoroethylene
(PTFE), known as Teflon.
Patients on dialysis come to a dialysis center to get their blood
cleansed three times a week. Two separate needles, one in the arterial
side and one on the venous side, are hooked up to the dialysis machine,
and the process takes several hours. When the grafted artery is made
from steer collagen, as with Artegraft’s product, it heals after the
hole has been used. In contrast, the hole in the "Teflon"
artery must be closed by the patient’s clotting blood, and this sometimes
results in clots that need to be surgically removed.
"The Robert Wood Johnson dialysis center is in our complex,"
says Gibson. Ironically, RWJ surgeons use only the PTFE today even
though the Artegraft artery was developed at RWJ’s predecessor, Middlesex
General. Says Gibson: "It is my wish that they would use it again."
— Barbara Fox
08902. Richard A. Gibson, CEO. 732-422-8333; fax, 732-422-8647. URL:
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