Edwards Lifesciences: Capitalizing on Utah’s Life Sciences Workforce

Pete CodellaWhere Are They Now?

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Edwards Lifesciences is the global leader in patient-focused medical innovations for structural heart disease and critical care monitoring. Driven by a passion for helping patients, the company collaborates with the world’s leading clinicians and researchers to address unmet healthcare needs and enhance patients’ lives.

Edwards’ roots date back to 1958 when Miles “Lowell” Edwards set out with the goal to build the first artificial heart. He was a 60-year-old, recently retired engineer holding more than 60 patents in various industries, with an entrepreneurial spirit and a dream of helping patients with heart disease. After shifting his focus to instead working on creating an artificial heart valve, the first Starr-Edwards mitral valve was designed, developed, tested, and successfully placed in a patient and spawned Edwards Laboratories.

Edwards has a long history in Utah, establishing its roots in the state with the acquisition of Research Medical, Inc., based in Midvale, in 1997.

“To accommodate plans for future growth, we expanded our manufacturing and development capabilities in Utah by opening our Draper facility in 2010,” says Ken Eliasen, vice president of plant operations at the Edwards Utah facility.

Today, Edwards has more than 1,000 employees in Utah who are building some of the most advanced medical products globally, manufacturing the metal framework and delivery systems that are key components of Edwards’ transcatheter heart valve platform. 

“Utah offers a favorable innovation climate, access to a highly-skilled workforce, an established medical device ecosystem, and a healthy, active outdoor lifestyle,” Eliasen said. “In recruiting local talent, Edwards has built positive relationships with local universities and medical centers. Over half of all engineers hired have graduated from local universities.”

One such graduate, Nate Arnim, joined Edwards 17 years ago with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Utah. Today, Arnim is the plant’s general manager.

“What attracted me to Edwards was the patient focus and rapid innovation mindset,” he said. “Edwards continues to position itself at the forefront of technology in this space, and we continue to see that growth realized across the world, including with our Draper plant.”

Edwards’ long-term growth is fueled by innovation and addressing unmet patient needs. Last year, the company invested 17% of sales in research and development (R&D), and product growth in recent years is directly related to the outputs of Edwards’ R&D. Edwards continues to introduce several innovative products that enable more patients to benefit from the company’s life-saving technologies than ever before.

Today, Edwards continues to lead the field of tissue replacement heart valves and repair products and advanced hemodynamic monitoring, which have helped treat and manage millions of patients worldwide. With more than 60 years of experience, it has grown into a global company with product sales in approximately 100 countries and more than 15,000 employees around the world. Each one of them is dedicated to furthering Edwards’ original vision to help clinicians, patients, and their families work together as a united community fighting cardiovascular disease and critical illnesses.