In December of 1995 FDA approved the Res-Q ACD. This was Intermedics’ first implantable defibrillator. The abdominal-implant device was a relatively late-comer, and large for the time (230 g), but it did offer the highest energy output (40 Joules). Another unique feature of the ResQ device was that it provided a connectorized sterile package which allowed complete pre-implant testing, thereby reducing the need for additional equipment.
In 1973, former Medtronic sales representative Albert Beutel founded Intermedics in Freeport, TX. The company’s first product was the C-MOS-I implantable pulse generator – a small (for the time), mercury-cell-powered pacemaker.
Mike Sklanowsky shared pictures of a C-MOS-I sample that he owns. Mike was a software consultant to Intermedics in Freeport around 1974, where he developed the first computerized pacemaker tracking and product recall software. Through his software, Intermedics tracked pacemaker locations and movement through distribution warehouse shelves, hospitals, clinics, doctors, nurses, patient notification of expiring battery charge, product recall communications, follow-ups, etc.
Before Intermedics, Mike worked for JPL, which was his first full-time job upon graduating from UCLA. At JPL he worked on problems related to celestial mechanics, spacecraft orbit determination, trajectory analysis, instrument operations, and human interfaces for real-time command and control. His first project was Mariner 9 Mars, which became the first man-made satellite to orbit another planet.
Mike, and fellow UCLA graduate Bob Patterson were the only two people from their class to get hired by JPL. Bob’s mentor, Prof. Ken Nobe involved both with Intermedics. Dr. Robert (Bob) Patterson was an expert in long-life lithium battery technology for space exploration, and his work for Intermedics led to the 1974 development of a lithium-powered version of C-MOS-I, followed in 1976 by InterLith which was hermetically sealed, and weighed just 65 grams.
My ex-colleagues from Intermedics may remember the Benchmark Electronics plant across the street in Angleton that used to manufacture some of our external devices. Benchmark announced that it plans to close the Angleton facility within a year, impacting approximately 190 plant employees.
Benchmark Electronics was founded in 1979 as “Electronics, Inc.” in Clute, Texas, as a manufacturing subsidiary to Intermedics. The company specialized in low-volume, complex assembly of medical products. It was bought from Intermedics by its managers in 1986, and went public in 1990. In 1994 Benchmark moved its headquarters to 3000 Technology Drive in Angleton, right across from Intermedics’ headquarters.
Benchmark continued growing, acquiring along the way plants and design centers in the US, Europe, and Asia.
In 2017 Benchmark Electronics relocated its corporate headquarters to Arizona so it could consolidate corporate headquarters staff in one location, expand its engineering capabilities through a partnership with Arizona State University, and position the company closer to its aerospace and defense customers.
On June 4, 2020, Benchmark will shutter the 109,000 sq. ft. plant in Angleton at some point between Jan. 1 and Jul. 1, 2021. According to the announcement, workers from the Angleton plant will be eligible to apply for open positions in other company locations.
In 1973, former Medtronic sales representative Albert Beutel founded Intermedics in Freeport, TX. The first product was a small, mercury-cell-powered pacemaker. In 1974 Intermedics introduced a lithium-powered version, and in 1976 it introduced InterLith which was hermetically sealed, and weighed just 65 grams. At the time, InterLith’s size was a breakthrough, and became a very popular device, solidifying Intermedics’ position in the industry.
The Circadia pacemaker was one of the very few devices that had a lead-borne thermistor to measure cental venous temperature (CVT) as a sensor for rate-response.
A unique feature of this pacemaker was an iridium-oxide (IrOx)-coated button welded to the can. It was believed that this button would improve unipolar IEGM sensing and reduce unipolar pacing thresholds (it didn’t). Continue reading
One of the indicators of metabolic demand that has been used for controlling the rate of pacemakers is central venous blood temperature (CVT).
In 1983, Bill Cook and Dr. Neal Fearnot began to work under the Cook Pacemaker Company on developing the technology developed by Dr. Fearnot at Purdue University into an improved prototype for a temperature-based exercise responsive pacemaker that was released in 1988 as the Kelvin Sensor rate-responsive pacemaker. One of the first CVT rate-adaptive pacemakers was the Cook Model Kelvin 500 series.
Another one of the first CVT rate-adaptive pacemakers was the Intermedics Nova MR, which differs from the Kelvin 500 series in that its pacing algorithm had a more dynamic HR response. Continue reading
Intermedics’ next-generation pacing platform would have been full of neat features such as: hemodynamic sensing (impedance-based hemodynamic sensor), autocapture (capture verification), autothreshold (self-tuning based on automatic strength-duration curve generation), high-quality digital telemetry, large-volume memory for electrogram storage, non-volatile memory for self-recovery and patient information, advanced noise detection, etc. My favorite feature though was “Patient Alert”. That saddle-shaped electrode in the picture was used to stimulate the patient’s pectoral muscles whenever the pacemaker wanted to alert the patient of a problem (e.g. low battery, fractured lead, etc.). The project was canceled when Guidant (now Boston Scientific) purchased Intermedics in 1998.