St. Jude Medical CEO knocks rival and regulatory climate, but also offers optimism

St. Jude Medical ($STJ) CEO Daniel Starks gives infrequent interviews and only sporadically speaks in public. He had a lot to say, however, at the Minnesota Venture Finance Conference Thursday, where he sounded off, in part, against an unnamed rival's growth strategy.

The Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal reported that Starks slammed the CEO of a particular med tech giant who has said the device industry's future could hinge on finding ways to lower device costs for emerging markets. Starks disagreed, saying the position "shows a lack of imagination and a focus on what is, rather than what should be," according to the story.

Guess away on which CEO Starks targeted. The story gives us a likely clue, citing Omar Ishrak, CEO of Minnesota device giant Medtronic ($MDT), as an industry executive who has long focused on growing in emerging markets. Also, Medtronic recently inked a deal with Apollo Hospitals Enterprises in India to develop an inexpensive hemodialysis machine. Medtronic declined to comment, according to the article.

Minnesota-based St. Jude Medical is also focused on India. The company is the first to bring a quadripolar pacemaker there--its CE marked Allure Quadra CRT. Starks has said that he sees a way to expand by growing the company's geographic footprint but also investing in technologies such as Allure Quadra that can help healthcare systems save money.

Not surprisingly, Starks also sounded off at the conference against the 2.3% medical device industry tax. According to the Star Tribune, he blamed the tax and the current regulatory climate at the FDA for slowing down innovation and making it hard for American companies to compete. The tax, he said, will be particularly hard on smaller companies looking to make their mark.

That said, Starks still expressed optimism about the future. The device industry can still make its mark by focusing on improving patient health and cutting costs, with a huge payoff in play for "a well-targeted technology, going after the right disease state," Starks is quoted as saying in the Star Tribune story.

- read the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal story
- here's the Star Tribune piece

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