Tofy Mussivand 1943-2024: from pastor to famous biomedical engineer

Mussivand was president and director of the Cardiovascular Devices Program at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute for more than 30 years.

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Tofigh “Tofy” Mussivant spent 30 years as president and director of the cardiovascular devices program at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, earning national and international accolades along the way.

He was a doctor in biomedical engineering, a member of the Royal Society of Canada and an advisor to prime ministers. In Ottawa, he was best known for his role in the high-profile quest to develop an artificial heart.

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But in later interviews, Mussivand often recalled his youth as a shepherd in the highlands of his native Iranian Kurdistan, learning to read and write by the light of a kerosene lamp.

“In summer, at night we used to go up to the roof of the houses and look at the stars. I ask, ‘Why, why am I here, what is my purpose?’” he told Postmedia in a 2010 interview.

“I was bothering my father with these questions, but he didn’t know it. In the end he got tired of me asking him… he put me in a school.”

Mussivand died on January 7 after a long illness.

In a statement, the University of Ottawa Heart Institute remembered a passionate and decorated leader, problem solver, educator, humanitarian and innovator who positioned Ottawa and Canada prominently in the fields of medical devices, including artificial hearts as a treatment for heart failure.

“Dr. Mussivand will be remembered for his contributions to science, technology and medicine, many of which have shaped the present and future of medical devices and have had significant impacts on global healthcare.”

Mussivand came to Canada in 1964 and moved to Edmonton to attend the University of Alberta. for a master’s degree in engineering. He later recalled that he only knew two words in English (“yes” and “no”) and got a job as a dishwasher.

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When Mussivand graduated, he became an executive at a utility company. He built and lost a real estate empire after interest rates skyrocketed.

His Canadian wife, Dixy Lee, was a doctor and Mussivand was fascinated by her medical textbooks. He wanted to learn more about the human body. He obtained a degree in medical engineering and medical sciences from the University of Akron School of Medicine and Northeastern Ohio University.

TOAt the Cleveland Clinic Hospital and Research Foundation, Mussivand began researching a new concept for a fully implantable artificial heart, powered and monitored remotely, without wires or tubes.

He was lured back to Canada in 1989 by cardiac surgeon Dr. Wilbert Keon, founder of the Heart Institute in Ottawa, who wanted his team to build a prototype implantable electrohydraulic ventricular assist device, known as an EVAD.

In 1996, Rod Bryden, founder of Systemhouse and former owner of the Ottawa Senators, formed WorldHeart Corporation with the University of Ottawa Heart Institute and Corel founder Michael Cowpland, with Mussivand as president and chief scientist.

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“An Ottawa team is in a fierce race to produce an artificial heart. If it wins, the prize will be enormous: a global market worth billions of dollars,” said a 1997 article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

“The team, led by Dr. Tofy Mussivand, brings together scientists and entrepreneurs. The goal is to produce a heart that improves the quality of life of patients and does not leave them tied to a machine in the hospital.”

The plan was to complete clinical trials by the year 2000 and have a commercial product ready a year or two later.

“We have to capture and hold the market to be successful,” Keon told the Canadian Medical Association Journal. “One of our competitors might get there first.”

Dr. Wilbert Keon and Dr. Tofy Mussivand with Heartsaver, an implantable pump device. Photo by Wayne Hiebert /postmedia files

But there were technical setbacks and a lack of Canadian investors, and WorldHeart struggled to become profitable before leaving Ottawa for Utah in 2004.

Mussivand he would later say problem It was not WorldHeart technology because key parts were still used under licensing agreements.

He problem There was a lack of investment in key points to stay ahead of the competition. Patents are not enough. A huge amount of capital is needed to finance the development of new devices.

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In 2012, HeartWare International, Inc., which produces miniaturized circulatory support technologies, announced that it had closed the acquisition of WorldHeart.

Mussivand was curious, impatient and tireless. He usually worked from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.

I never give up. The harder it gets, the more exciting “That’s how it is for me,” he said.

WorldHeart’s disappointment led Mussivand to champion the development of a medical device industry in Canada. Established the Medical Device Commercialization Center, a network of medical device stakeholders, to develop and commercialize devices for the global market.

Mussivand noted that Canada was a small country in terms of population. Good things happen in Canada, but technologies It will eventually end up somewhere else, he said.. “I’m not against it, but it makes me sad because some of these things could create jobs and income for Canada.

He also thanked Canada. There were attempts to recruit him to return to the United States, but Mussivand said he was “monogamous.”

Only in Canada could a young pastor like me come and have this opportunity.” he said.

Mussivand is survived by his wife, Dixy Lee, his children David, Troy and Lailee June, and his grandson Spencer.

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