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US firm buys Belfast company HeartSine that's a genuine lifesaver

Footballer survived thanks to HeartSine's defibrillator

By Audrey Watson

HeartSine, the Belfast company behind the device which helped save the life of footballer Fabrice Muamba in 2012, has been bought by an American firm for an undisclosed sum.

The medical technology company is the only manufacturer of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in the UK and Ireland.

The firm, which employs 115 people at its Airport Road West base, is now part of Washington-based Physio-Control, the world’s leading provider of professional emergency medical response solutions.

The merger of the two privately-owned firms creates one of the world’s largest AED providers.

HeartSine chief executive Declan O’Mahoney said the deal was “very good” for the firm and its distributors. “Our teams share a strong clinical focus, and together we have exciting opportunities ahead for technical, scientific and marketing collaboration,” he said.

“Most importantly, we have a strong cultural fit and a common mission to prevent unnecessary deaths from sudden cardiac arrest.”

Physio-Control chief executive Brian Webster said the firms were now “united in our lifesaving missions”.

He added: "We will be able to offer a tremendous range of AED solutions to our global customers and partners.

"Sudden cardiac arrest is one of the biggest health care problems in the world and AEDs are a critical part of the solution.

"The global market for these devices is growing fast and our joint aim is to save more lives with more AEDs in more places."

HeartSine Technologies was founded in 1998 by the late Professor John Anderson, working with a group of investors.

Professor Anderson worked with the pioneer of out-of-hospital, mobile coronary care, Dr Frank Pantridge, in Belfast during the 1960s and 1970s.

The process emergency departments still use to treat out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is known as The Belfast Protocol, as the world's first portable, out-of-hospital defibrillator was developed in the city in the Sixties, changing the way emergency care was delivered worldwide.

HeartSine established research and development activities in Northern Ireland and initiated a formal collaboration with the University of Ulster's Bioengineering Centre (NIBEC) and its partner, the Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH).

The company now exports to more than 70 countries worldwide and earlier this year announced that it had boosted sales to the Middle East by 60% in 2014.

Sudden cardiac arrests (SCA) kill approximately seven million people globally each year. Incidents such as the collapse of Muamba during a football match in March 2012 helped raise awareness about the prevalence of the condition.

The former midfielder with Bolton Wanderers survived, despite his heart having stopped for 78 minutes, thanks to CPR and a Belfast-made AED.

Every life saved by a HeartSine defibrilator is recorded by the firm. When data from the device is relayed back to Northern Ireland, the people who made it are given a round of applause.

"We make a device which automatically sends data back to us to tell us if it has saved a life," says Mr O'Mahoney.

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