The 3M Corporation has released a Bluetooth stethoscope. A 21st century replacement for the device that is most associated with doctors, its development was the result of a collaboration between 3M Littmann and Zargis Medical Corp., a 10-year-old company that was formed in a joint venture between Siemens and a company called Speedus, which is based in Freehold.

The software was invented in Zargis’ Research Way R & D facility by Ray Watrous, the company’s chief scientist. Greatly increasing the information that a stethoscope can pick up, it has the potential to be a lifesaver for the millions of people who have “quiet” heart disease and a cost saver for the millions of people who are unnecessarily referred for sophisticated cardiac testing.

Zargis is a majority-owned subsidiary of Stamford, Connecticut-based Speedus Corp. (Nasdaq: SPDE), whose stock went up nearly 100 percent upon the announcement.

In an interview in October, 2007, John Kallassy, the company’s CEO, said that 3M Littmann is the world leader in the stethoscope market. Zargis supported its efforts to develop a next-generation stethoscope compatible with Zargis’ heart sound analysis software. Zargis provided the software, 3M Littmann is manufacturing the electronic stethoscope, and both will work to ensure that the two components work well together.

Importantly for Zargis, Kallassy said, 3M Littmann, which has a global marketing and distribution network in place, will handle sales, a function that he says is difficult for a small company.

One market for the new stethoscope will be the “worried well,” those individuals who want to keep on top of all aspects of their health and fitness, Kallassy said. But most of the high-tech stethoscopes are likely to end up in the hands of physicians, replacing the traditional stethoscope, which has changed little since its invention in 1816 by French physician R.T.H. Laennec, who, Kallassy related, is said to have been uncomfortable with examining his niece’s heart by placing his ear on her chest, the common method at that time. Knowing that solids could conduct sounds, he rolled up 24 sheets of parchment, leaving hollow space in the center, and was amazed to find that the crude instrument was a big improvement over the un-aided ear.

And that, says Kallassy, is pretty much where the technology stopped evolving. The stethoscope did move from an instrument made of wood and designed for one-ear to the present metal and rubber two-ear instrument, but in function, it has barely advanced since the early 1800s.

This is a serious handicap because the common stethoscope does a pretty poor job of picking up abnormalities in heart function, missing serious problems, and falsely indicating that many healthy hearts are not beating as they should be.

Applauding the work that Kallassy did on the Bluetooth stethoscope, Speedus named him that company’s CFO on August 19, the same day that 3M announced the release of the stethoscope. “John successfully led Zargis from its research and development stage to a comprehensive product launch through a global marketing alliance with 3M,” Shant Hovnanian, Speedus’ CEO, said in a statement. “John’s enthusiasm is contagious.” He will remain CEO of Zargis.

Prior to joining Zargis, Kallassy was a founder and the CEO of American Data Consultants (ADC), a firm specializing in information services and market research. He sold ADC to R.L. Polk in 1997 and continued his employment for three years.

Kallassy holds a B.S. from the State University of New York which was completed during a year of pharmacology studies at Leeds University in England, and earned his MBA from Cornell University.

Zargis Medical Corp. (SPDE), 2 Research Way, Princeton 08540; 609-734-4747; fax, 609-734-6565. Shahram Hejazi, president and CEO. Home page: www.zargis.com.

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