Q&A with Fred St Goar, Fogarty Innovation Vice Chairman

by | Mar 1, 2024 | Fogarty Innovation, Mentoring

Fred St Goar, MD, needs little introduction, given his integral role in the Fogarty Innovation journey since its inception and his current position as vice chairman of the board. A prolific innovator, mentor and global health advocate, he also serves on the boards of Solo Pace and Biospectal, is an innovation mentor at Stanford Byers Center for Biodesign, an adjunct professor of medicine at University of Global Health Equity in Rwanda, and the medical director of the Norma Melchor Heart and Vascular Institute at El Camino Health. 

With so many exciting projects continually in the works, we recently caught up with St Goar so he could bring us up to speed on all his latest endeavors and share his long-term perspective on Fogarty Innovation’s impact.  

Q. You’ve been deeply involved in global health efforts for more than a decade. Where are you seeing progress?

A. As you know, since working as a mentor with Fogarty graduate Alydia Health (Organon), I’ve been involved with several projects in Africa, both in Rwanda and Burundi. In Rwanda I have collaborated closely with the amazing medical school, University of Global Health Equity, which has had much success and is now hosting its fourth cohort of medical students and seventh cohort of master’s students. Recently a couple of teams from startups I work with in the U.S. visited to do implementation studies, which gives students a chance to work on a project and receive mentoring. It also helps the company gain insight into how to introduce its technology into different environments in a global setting. This year Novocuff, one of our newest Fogarty CAP companies, is going to conduct an implementation study there soon and will be meeting regularly with two master’s students. 

Another exciting development, which has long been a dream of mine, is the launch of the East Africa Biodesign fellowship, an initiative between the University of Global Health Equity, Stanford Byers Center for Biodesign, the University of Rwanda and Kenyatta University. The fellows who will be running this program have come to Stsnford to learn the Biodesign process, and on return to Rwanda and Kenya will stay in contact with, and be mentored by Stanford Biodesign and Fogarty staff, including myself. 

Lastly, the Women’s Health Pavilion in Burundi, which is run by Village Health Works, opened in July 2024 as the only obstetrical and surgical-focused hospital in the country. Burundi has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, which is partly due to an extreme scarcity of trained healthcare professionals. To this end, we are working to set up a sister hospital collaboration with El Camino Health. I’m really looking forward to seeing how that partnership evolves, as it could be a powerful model for how we can scale our expertise to help other countries and professionals advance.

Q. You’ve often talked about the power of mentoring. How does FI approach this in a unique and beneficial way? 

I learn as much from those whom I mentor as they do from me. I think Fogarty’s team mentorship approach works particularly well because the diverse experiences we’ve all had makes us stronger together than any of us as individuals. The mentorship program at Fogarty has really grown as we work with a variety of groups from Biodesign programs, including from Singapore and Rwanda, as well as Stanford, along with the Lefteroff interns, the Ferolyn Fellows and participants in DxD programs. 

This collaborative approach is derived from Fogarty’s physicals, one of the organization’s signature programs, which really showcases the team’s breadth and depth and expertise in the field. All the varied points of view make for a much richer experience than meeting one-on-one with a mentor. It’s really invigorating and inspiring to see them in action, and I always learn something new. 

Q: You’ve been involved with the Lefteroff interns and Ferolyn Fellowship since their inception. How have these programs grown and changed over the years?

A. These two programs just continue to get better. We had such a high number of very qualified applicants for this year’s 2024 Lefteroff internship that it will be very difficult to winnow down to the 16 or so available spots. The make-up of each intern class is varied, but they all have a deep desire to help one another and get as much out of the experience as they can, which is what makes this program so special and gives it a very strong dynamic.

What makes the Ferolyn Fellowship so extraordinary is all the different personalities involved, from the three fellows who are selected each year to the industry luminaries who provide immersive mentoring. In turn, the graduates stay deeply involved and committed to helping their fellow graduates and future cohorts. This type of mentorship and support is often hard to find as people get further along into their careers. You really get a sense of family, which reflects so many of Ferolyn’s own traits. We have seen tremendous outcomes with Fellowship graduates leading companies like Novocuff, Emme, Madorra, Ciel Medical (Vyvaire), and so many more. To me, the way you judge success of a program is whether people stay involved and engaged, and this program has really achieved this. 

Q. Tell us how things are going with MitraClip and Alydia, as two of the key companies you have been involved with?

A. I’m very proud to say that the MitraClip has helped well over 200,000 patients to date. It’s used in 70 countries and more than 1,000 hospitals, which is far beyond what any of us imagined when we first designed and created the technology. I was in Europe recently for a couple of days meeting with Abbott structural heart training teams. It was informative for me as over there they not only have extensive experience with the MitraClip, but also with the TriClip which is being effectively utilized for treat tricuspid regurgitation and which is very close to getting FDA approval in the United States. Tricuspid regurgitation is a very undertreated disease, and the TriClip promises to be a great resource for patients who don’t at this point have a good therapeutic option now. This represents yet another exciting evolution which at the inception of the MitraClip technology we had had not anticipated.    

Also, Alydia Health is doing great. The Jada System has already been used to treat more than 30,000 patients and is in more than 1,500 hospitals across the country, which is remarkable progress in the three years since commercialization. As Dr. Fogarty and I felt all along, this company is making and will continue to make an incredible impact by helping to prevent postpartum hemorrhage, which is one of the leading causes of maternal mortality.  

Q. Where do you see the industry heading, and how can Fogarty continue to make an impact? 

A. I believe that organizations like Fogarty Innovation are needed now more than ever, given the current funding environment, which is significantly more challenging than it was several years ago. Dr. Fogarty always used to say one of the reasons he wanted to create the organization was to help startup companies navigate what’s referred to as the “valley of death,” and you could argue that “valley” is getting deeper and wider as the whole process of getting to market has become more difficult.

The Fogarty team is doing an incredible job helping the companies navigate these really turbulent waters to get into clinical studies and to prove their value, which is critical for both obtaining funding and attracting potential early acquirors. 

Fogarty has come such a long way since its inception, with a facility that has an incredible set-up for the companies and an impressive team. It is continually expanding its educational programs and partnerships, and these are benefitting not only the companies that reside at the organization, but also the industry as a whole. 

Fogarty has been transformative already, and I’m excited to see what the organization will accomplish next.  

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