Egypt's Waleed Hassanein chosen in Foreign Policy's 100 leading global thinkers list

Menna Alaa El-Din, Friday 4 Dec 2015

Waleed Hassanein
A screenshot of Waleed Hassanein's mini-profile on Foreign Policy that has chosen him among 100 leading global thinkers.

Egypt's Waleed Hassanein, president and CEO of TransMedics, has been chosen as one of Foreign Policy's 100 leading global thinkers.

Hassanein, whose company developed a breakthrough in the Organ Care System technology in Europe and the Middle East, was featured by the renowned US paper among a worldwide range of thinkers, healers, readers and activists in the widely cited list, which is announced each winter.

In former interviews, Hassanein shared his success story about how his path to become a heart surgeon transformed drastically during his first-year surgical residency in 1994 at the US's Georgetown University School of Medicine.

About 26 at that time, he was on his way with the Georgetown University team to a medical centre in Northern Virginia; where they were supposed to recover a heart from a dead organ donor to transplant it to a recipient back at Georgetown.

The heart, secured in a cooler with ice, was foreseen by Hassanein as a disappointment.

“I’m standing there looking at this thing like, there has to be a better way,” Hassanein says in an interview in 2014.

“All this investment of time and effort to be able to put it in a cooler?”

Hassanein's moment of realisation came as he questioned himself of ways to keep a heart beating outside the human body.

In 1998, Hassanein decided to take the risk of a lifetime: putting his career as a heart surgeon on hold and staying in Boston to allot himself to his audacious sentiment.

He built the first prototype of his device out of plywood and aluminium piping; both bought at a local hardware store in New Hampshire.

Hassanein was met with apprehension from medical device makers about how his device would take too much money and time to implement.

Therefore, in 1998, he founded TransMedics, which then survived major economic hits during the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the mortgage crisis and recession blow in 2008.

Under his 15-year leadership, TransMedics created a device that aims to preserve organs for transplantation, making the company the "global market leader for ex-vivo physiologic organ preservation, optimisation, and assessment of solid organs for transplantation."

The Organ Care System aims to simulate the physiology of the human body while transporting the organs.

According to Transmedics, its technology entitles that when a heart is removed from a donor, it is placed in a small clear plastic module connected to a series of tubes and perfused with oxygenated blood from the donor, along with nutrients and hormones delivered through a proprietary solution. The heart continues to beat as if it is in the chest; therefore acting as a simulation of the human body's physiology.

TransMedics, with about 70 employees today, has raised roughly $200 million in funding to date. 

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