Philipp Bonhoeffer, born and raised in Germany, is a paediatric interventional cardiologist and the inventor of numerous technical procedures in this area. His commitment from the beginning of his career also encompasses access to medicine in developing countries. And in addition to his medical activities, he is a musician and violin builder.
After he graduated from school, Philipp Bonhoeffer moved to Italy and got his degree in Medicine and Surgery in 1989 at the Università degli Studi in Milan. As early as the following year, he presented an innovative idea that met with great interest in Italy and internationally, especially in the United States of America. He had found a new method of treatment for children in need of a transposition of the great arteries, requiring an arterial switch procedure – one in which the left ventricle becomes systemic following surgery. The ventricle, not meant to withstand a high-pressure load, must then be trained by inflating a balloon within the pulmonary artery.
This was the beginning of a long-standing collaboration with the American company NuMed and its chairman Allen Tower, a collaboration that from 1991 onwards has led to numerous fruitful results. Impressed by the charisma of the young physician, Allen Tower allowed Philipp Bonhoeffer to manufacture a large number of prototypes free of charge, in order to allow experiments with low research budgets and regardless of market potential.
Philipp Bonhoeffer continued his research, after he moved to Paris in 1994, at the “Hôpital Necker Enfants Malades”. In the same year, his first big success came with a “multi-track” system for the opening of the mitral valve, and later for angiography in complex interventional procedures. Subsequently, Philipp Bonhoeffer and Allen Tower jointly established a non-profit company, MAP Medical, for the purpose of construction of catheters for the treatment of mitral stenosis, a widespread disease in developing countries.
In 1999, Philipp Bonhoeffer developed a new idea for the construction of a heart valve fitted into a catheter, which is expanded inside the heart by using a balloon. This is the key to the world's first implantation of a heart valve without the need for open heart surgery, as had been the case until then. A year later he received an authorisation from the Ethics Committees Paris, where he was working at that time, to carry out such an implant on the first living patient. The “Melody” valve (Medtronic) used in this particular case became the first trans-catheter heart valve to receive the CE certification and later, the approval of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in the United States of America. The success of this implant over time prompted the generation of a whole industry for implantable trans-catheter valves, with thousands of patients treated annually.
From 2001, Philipp Bonhoeffer pursued his activity at “Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children” in London.
Philipp Bonhoeffer has published, in the course of his career, more than 150 articles in international journals, and is the owner of numerous patents, most notably in the field of new heart valve technologies.
In 2010, Philipp Bonhoeffer began to devote himself extensively to his other passion, besides medicine: music. He is known not only as a violinist but also as a violin builder and researcher.
Philipp Bonhoeffer now lives in Italy.