Leading Canada towards breakthroughs in the medical device sector

Tofy Mussivand

Tofy Mussivand has pioneered 12 innovative technologies, including the artificial heart. But if you think he is resting on his laurels, think again. This world-renowned scientist, engineer, educator, industrialist, inventor and humanitarian is on fire.

by Sean Rushton
It’s easy to be humbled by the extraordinary life of Tofy Mussivand. An Iranian-born immigrant to Canada from the highlands of Kurdistan and Mount Ararat, Mussivand’s fascinating journey from his childhood as a shepherd to one of the world’s leading medical scientists is a remarkable feat. 
Perhaps best known for his work in artificial heart technology, Mussivand, who holds doctorates in engineering and medical sciences, is world-renowned scientist, educator, industrialist, inventor and humanitarian that has been recognized by numerous awards. He is the founder and director of the University’s new Medical Devices Innovation Institute (MDI2) and long-time director of the Cardiovascular Devices Division of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. Mussivand is also a professor of surgery and engineering at the University of Ottawa and Carleton University and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. 
Given these prodigious accomplishments, it would be reasonable to draw the conclusion that Mussivand is ready to take a break— reasonable, but dead wrong. That’s because one of Mussivand’s most central characteristics is persistence. 
Combining his scientific, management and business expertise, Mussivand is doggedly determined to turn the powerful tide of Canada’s current dependence on importing medical devices.
Currently, most of the medical devices we use in Canada, from tongue depressors to artificial hearts, come from other countries. According to Mussivand, this situation can and should be reversed. 
He wants Canada to become one of the world’s market leaders in the development and export of medical devices—a rapidly growing sector in a global market that approaches one trillion dollars per year. 
“The revenue generated from the development and export of medical devices from Canada could compete with that generated by many major exporting sectors such as oil and gas, automotive, fishery, forestry and others in Canada,” says the man who has been a CEO of several successful companies and the chairman of several boards. 
Canada used to produce more of its own medical devices, Mussivand says. 
“At one point, Canada was a leader in developing medical devices like pacemakers and artificial hearts,” he adds. “I think we can be again, but we need to start addressing some challenging obstacles that have been preventing us from commercializing our medical devices.” 
That’s exactly what Mussivand plans to do at the Medical Devices Innovation Institute. His group has already gained regional, national and international recognition and acceptance by focusing on the research, development and commercialization of medical devices and technology through a series of wide-ranging activities. 
Currently, Mussivand and his group are working on 24 innovative medical device technologies. One of the current projects under way includes a microchip that could identify a person’s DNA from a single fingerprint in less than 15 seconds. (The biosecurity industry is very interested in the patent-pending “Portable DNA Extraction Device.”) 
“Our group works diligently in the advocacy and collaboration area to advance the knowledge and understanding of the importance of medical devices for providing high quality healthcare in Canada,” says Mussivand, who will host the 2011 Medical Devices Summit, entitled “Building a National Medical Devices Strategy” from October 13 to 14, in Ottawa. “We conduct workshops, symposiums and international congresses to further advance the knowledge of medical devices technology to build Canada’s reputation on the global stage.” 
So, with more than two decades of breakthroughs, what exactly is the secret to success of this once shepherd boy who dared to dream of changing the world? 
“I always surround myself with smart, practical people,” says Mussivand. “Collaborators, co-investigators—I generally don’t do things alone. This is not only helpful, it’s in fact a crucial part of medical device innovation.” 
Ultimately, Mussivand sees his wide-ranging multidisciplinary collaborations with various hospitals, universities, industry, government and other related agencies in Ottawa, across Canada and around the world as the secret to success. “Without such collaboration, there would simply be no advances in this field,” he insists. 
He also views perseverance as an extremely important trait. 
“I just don’t give up,” he adds with a wink. “Ever.” 
Back to top