Bigger isn't necessarily better in the eyes of Edwards Lifesciences (EW - Get Report) , and that philosophy is likely to inform the approach the maker of heart-valve devices takes to dealmaking, CEO Michael Mussallem said in an interview at the Grand Hyatt New York.
"Never say never about something transformational, but we don't consider size a big advantage," Mussallem said an interview.
While many of Irvine, Calif.-based company's medtech peers and health care players generally speaking have viewed large-scale M&A as a means to improve their economics and get overall costs down, Edwards is implementing a different approach, the CEO explained.
"Because we're so focused in structured heart disease and critical care and we're already the leader in that field, the idea of [buying market share] is not nearly as interesting to us as buying an idea and the intellectual property that goes along with it," Mussallem said.
Less than two weeks ago Edwards, whose current market capitalization lies north of $20 billion, announced a deal to buy Valtech Cardio for an upfront consideration of $350 million. The deal includes an additional potential consideration of up to $350 million in milestone payments over the next 10 years.
The deal comes after HeartWare International, pressured by activist Engaged Capital, called off its pending acquisition of Valtech in January. Medtronic (MDT - Get Report) subsequently agreed to take out HeartWare in June for about $1.1 billion in a deal that was seemingly engineered by Engaged's Glenn Welling.
Edwards, while well aware of Valtech, was simply tracking its progress when the deal with HeartWare was announced, Mussallem said, noting that it wasn't until some time after that deal fell apart that it engaged with the company on a more serious basis.
Edwards had been particularly intrigued by an approach to treat mitral regurgitation, or damaged upper left valves, known as annular repair, a surgical-like method that alters the mitral annulus and is a safer and easier procedure than a range of more traditional open heart surgical techniques. And while there are around 50 or so private companies engaged in some sort of mitral valve program, essentially all of which Edwards has probably looked at, Israel's Valtech has the most clinical experience, Mussallem explained.
While medical device companies with a broader focus such as Abbott Laboratories (ABT - Get Report) and Medtronic have continued to fork out several billions of dollars for large acquisitions, Boston Scientific (BSX - Get Report) has an MO more comparable to Edwards. While company followers expect Boston will continue to limit itself to smallish deals south of $1 billion, Venkat Rajon of Frost & Sullivan, previously told The Deal that if it did want something transformative, it could look to Edwards.
The two minimally overlap from a product standpoint and Edwards is first in market with its transcatheter heart valve, which Rajon noted has significant advantages to traditional valves.
In terms of divestitures, Mussallem said Edwards doesn't have anything on its radar right now, but noted that if something slipped into commodity status, it probably would jettison it.
M&A aside, Mussallem said he expects the company's Sapien 3 transcatheter aortic valve replacement to serve as its biggest driver of growth.
Other potential catalysts for not only Edwards but the industry as a whole include the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act, which is designed to speed medical research reviews by the Food and Drug Administration. The bill passed through the Senate with a 94 to 5 vote Wednesday and through the House with a 392 to 26 vote last week.
"I think it has the potential to really stimulate getting medical innovations -- and medical technology innovations in particular -- to Americans," said Mussallem, who testified in both the Senate and the House in favor of the bill.
Centralized Institutional Review Boards, a group of individuals designated to review research involving human subjects, right now are very hospital-specific, making it difficult to do broad research across multiple health systems. 21st Century Cures would enable a common IRB, thus accelerating important medical research, Mussallem said. The creation of a "breakthrough" device pathway for a limited number of medical technologies by the FDA, which would essentially speed up the regulatory approval process, could also bode well for Edwards, he noted.