Abbott has recently jumped into the electrophysiology (EP) device market with both feet. A year ago, the company did not offer any products in the EP space. Now, by coupling their size and strong presence in interventional cardiology (IC) with a series of acquisitions and investments, Abbott is poised to shake up the EP device landscape currently dominated by cardiovascular device giants Biosense Webster, St. Jude Medical, and Boston Scientific.

The global EP mapping and ablation market, which includes a whole constellation of technologies from capital equipment to catheters, is close to $3 billion today. This will nearly double in the coming years, fueled by double digit growth across all markets, both emerging and developed. This growth is driven primarily by recent advances in EP that have allowed for more long-term and reliable treatment of atrial fibrillation (AF) the most common and historically most difficult to treat cardiac arrhythmia in clinical practice, affecting well over 30 million people worldwide and growing steadily with the aging population.

Abbott recently finalized a $250 million acquisition of Topera and their FDA-approved 3D mapping system designed to locate patient-specific arrhythmia sources or rotors in the cardiac tissue as precise targets for ablation. Offering this degree of precision will propel Abbott to the front of the line when it comes to specialized lab systems that further advance AF treatment technology. In a separate agreement, Abbott also purchased the option to acquire Advanced Cardiac Therapeutics after their TempaSure ablation catheter receives CE marking. This catheter offers microwave radiometry the newest method for predicting tissue temperature and ensuring complete ablation while mitigating complications associated with overheating the tissue. Advanced ablation catheter technology is the key to successful AF treatment, allowing Abbott to capture the growth associated with these complicated procedures.  In a third move, Abbott also contributed to $31.6 million in investments to medical device startup VytronUS, to develop its Low Intensity Collimated Ultrasound (LICU) offering both precise mapping and efficient ablation in one system. At the same time, Abbott acquired VytronUS's CEO, Michael Pederson, to lead their newly formed EP business. By acquiring technology that advances AF treatment techniques making procedures faster, safer and more effective it is clear that Abbott is positioning itself to be a major competitor in the EP market.

While the advanced EP devices Abbott has added to their arsenal come with a premium price tag, somewhat limiting adoption rates, they are the driving force of the US and European EP mapping and ablation markets. By coupling their strong presence in IC markets with a well-rounded product portfolio of advanced EP devices specializing in AF treatment, Abbott has positioned itself to swiftly capture a strong share of the competitive and growing EP markets in the US and Europe. Abbott's IC presence will be even more important as they enter emerging markets, where cost constraints have resulted in a large proportion of shared IC and EP labs. And if they are able to get in on the ground floor in competitively underpenetrated emerging markets in time to capture the expected growth as those markets are able to take up more expensive specialized EP devices, Abbott will contend as global leader of the EP diagnostic and ablation market.

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