Today on Business Rockstars, Ken Rutkowski talks with Howard J. Leonhardt, an inventor and serial entrepreneur, who has founded 21 companies in various fields from medical to restaurant to media.
In 1986 Howard J. Leonhardt founded WorldMed originally as an export trading company helping small manufacturers of cardiovascular medical devices to reach international markets and later (1988) as a developer, manufacturer and seller of original devices for treating heart and cardiovascular disease.
Leonhardt has 17 U.S. patents for his inventions related to treating cardiovascular disease including; cardiovascular balloon catheters, artificial lung, a non-surgical placed heart valve, radiation catheters, specialized electronic pacemakers, biological pacemakers, cell delivery catheters, aortic stents grafts, stem cell treatment methods for heart failure and a method of converting stem cells to heart muscle cells. He was primary inventor of the Taheri-Leonhardt or TALENT stent graft now sold by Medtronic Vascular that controls about 70% of the world market for repairing thoracic aortic aneurysms without surgery.
He is the author of numerous articles in scientific journals on the subject of treating cardiovascular diseases. He is an honorary Doctorate of Biomedical of Engineering from the University of Northern California, a honorary alumnus of the University of Florida, in addition to being a diploma graduate of the International Trade program of Anoka Technical College in Minneapolis, Minnesota where he also attended the University of Minnesota and Anoka Ramsey Community College.
WorldMed, founded in 1986 with two employees, grew to nearly 500 employees by the time it merged with another small company Arterial Vascular Engineering, Inc. (AVE) in April of 1998. The combined companies (primarily AVE) grew to nearly 2000 employees before being acquired by Medtronic, Inc. for $4.3 billion in early 1999.
That same year Leonhardt founded Bioheart, Inc. Today Bioheart, Inc. is the undisputed leader in applying muscle stem cells to treat advanced heart failure. Bioheart is the only company in a Phase III pivotal clinical trial for this type of technology at 35 leading centers in the USA including Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic, Columbia University and Duke University. Bioheart has successfully raised over $100 million from investors and has received over $30 million in grants since it’s founding.
In addition to stem cell therapies the company has developed a full range of products for treating heart failure. Three of these products just received both FDA and CMS reimbursement approval in the past year. Bioheart is a public company trading under the stock symbol BHRT. Leonhardt stepped down after 10 years of service as their CEO in August of 2009 and now serves as their Chief Science and Technology Officer and Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board.
Bioheart shared interim results from it’s Phase III clinical trial at the most recent Heart Failure Society of America Annual Meeting which showed stem cell treated patients improved 91.7 meters in exercise capacity testing while blinded placebo patients on drugs declined minus -4 meters. No other therapy previously did better than 20 meters improvement in previous clinical trials.
In 2003 Howard Leonhardt was named South Florida Entrepreneur of the Year and in 2004 Entrepreneur of the Year for the State of Florida. Leonhardt has served many years on the boards of Florida International University Foundation, University of Florida Center for Entrepreneurship and the University of Northern California. At all of these schools Leonhardt served as a Consulting Professor teaching Entrepreneurship and additionally was the lead sponsor for their annual business plan competitions and venture academies.
Mr. Leonhardt also supported the formation of an entrepreneurship center at his alma mater Anoka Technical College and has taught Entrepreneurship at the University of Minnesota, Princeton University and U.C.L.A. Mr. Leonhardt attended and spoke briefly as a questionaire at the 2010 National Education Summit in Washington D.C. His brief statement advocated the need to fight student boredom by embracing a student’s personal passions and by making learning, particularly reading, a joy.
Leonhardt has contributed time and money to many charities including Dan Marino’s Children’s Hospital for Autism, Rob and Marisol Thomas’s Sidewalk Angels Foundation, The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Operation Smile, Doc to Dock, Musicians on Call, Artists Against World Hunger and Poverty and others. Leonhardt serves on the boards of the non-profit organizations The Cell Therapy Foundation and The Adult Stem Cell Research Network.
In 2009 Leonhardt founded Kindheart Lionheart Media & Publishing, an inspirational books, movies and music company. The company grew out of Leonhardt’s life long passion of sharing inspirational books with friends such as the life stories of Walt Disney, Steve Jobs and Thomas Edison as well as spiritual texts such as The Prophet, Conversations with God, The Celestine Prophecy and The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari. Kindheart Lionheart Media & Publishing supported the production of their first original music EP CD in 2010 with their first feature sponsored artist Ana Free from Portugal working in partnership with her team. Ana has more than 20 million YouTube hits as her popularity is growing rapidly. The company sponsored concerts in early 2010 in Miami Beach and New York.
Leonhardt is an author of the soon to be published book Dolphin Smiles: The Legend of Kindheart Lionheart about a dolphin that remembers his previous life as a human. This is an inspirational story that teaches the Power of Positive Thinking and the importance of gratitude. Leonhardt is working with Darryl Kidder formerly of DreamWorks and former Story Department Head at Disney to convert the book into a movie. The two recently completed the full slate of storyboard drawings for the story and are in the process of pitching it to entertainment companies.