This month, Bernard Zovighian takes the helm of Edwards Lifesciences – OC’s most valuable publicly traded company. He becomes just the second CEO of Edwards since it went public in 2000, following Michael A. Mussallem, who recently retired. Zovighian spoke to the Irvine Standard about innovation at Edwards, which invented the world’s first successful heart valve in 1960 and has since helped over 2 million heart patients worldwide.
Irvine is a national hub for medical devices. How did that come to be?
There’s a dynamic environment for health care innovation in Orange County, as well as collaboration between public and private entities. Edwards Lifesciences has roots in the county going back more than 60 years, and so a lot of the medical technology community has ties to the company. There are strong universities and colleges locally, a number of well-regarded hospitals and academic medical centers, and an improving ability to access talent. All of this comes together to create a place where innovation focused on patient needs can thrive.
What has been Edwards’ impact on innovation in Irvine over the years?
While Edwards is headquartered in Irvine, and we have expanded our presence here over the years, we’re proud that our impact on innovation and patient care has spanned the world. Edwards has been a leader and pioneer in both the surgical repair and replacement of heart valves, transcatheter heart valves and hemodynamic monitoring. The medical technology community around Orange County has alumni of Edwards who have become innovators and entrepreneurs, and we’re proud that collectively this community is helping patients all around the world, across various fields of medicine.
“There are strong universities and colleges locally, a number of well-regarded hospitals and academic medical centers, and an improving ability to access talent. All of this comes together to create a place where innovation focused on patient needs can thrive.” – BERNARD ZOVIGHIAN
How does a big firm like yours spur innovation?
We have a commitment to innovation throughout the entire organization. This means that we are willing to take risks and go first – creating pathways that others have not – and we understand and welcome failure as a part of the innovation process. I like to think that we fail forward – our teams develop, study, iterate, test and refine, and as part of this, they fail. So long as we are learning from those failures and improving, we will keep progressing. Edwards takes on the big challenges, identifying and looking to address unmet patient needs and developing breakthrough therapies to change the practice of medicine, and innovation is at the heart of what we do. We also know there are bright ideas outside of Edwards, and we are active investors in and champions of innovation outside of the company.
How do you feel about taking on the role of CEO?
I’m very fortunate to be taking on this role for a company that has been guided, grown and led by Mike Mussallem for the last 23 years, creating strength in the company’s culture and performance. I’m also fortunate to be a part of a very talented leadership team at Edwards, who, together with our passionate and dedicated employees around the world, are focused on patients every day.