Michael E. Gertner, 33
Set out to improve the tiny devices that keep once blocked arteries open
University of California, San Francisco
When Michael Gertner is convinced he’s right, it’s damn the torpedos, full speed ahead! A resident in general surgery at the University of California, San Francisco, Medical Center, Gertner pondered how to improve coatings for stents- tiny expandable structures that doctors implant to help hold coronary arteries open once they have been unblocked by angioplasty. Each year, more than 900,000 coronary stents are deployed in the U.S., and over time they can become covered with scar tissue that can once again impede blood flow. New stents are coated with polymers that, for a week or two, release a drug that inhibits scarring, but the polymers can degrade the drugs or even harm blood vessels. Gertner reasoned that a metal coating would work better. Ignoring some experts who doubted his approach’s commercial viability, he and a colleague developed a process for coating stents with metallic films. The metal forms a fine lattice that carries drug molecules it can release for up to six months. Although surgery keeps Gertner busy, he has cofounded Nanomedical Technologies in San Francisco to develop the system. A stent manufacturer has already acquired parts of the technology. Time will tell if those doubting experts were wrong.