Perhaps that explains why Palmaz, a member of the UC Davis Health System’s National Board of Advisors last November, pursues his personal and professional goals with amazing energy and enthusiasm. A physician widely credited with inventing the first commercially successful stent for opening clogged arteries, Palmaz also enjoys an uncommon variety of interests and activities.
He has collected 14 vintage Porsche race cars, many of which he has driven and continues to tinker with. An avid tennis player and cycling enthusiast, he values his family above all. Citing his time spent as a medical resident at UC Davis as key to discovering his fascination with wine making, he purchased 600 acres in the Napa Valley. There he rebuilt an abandoned winery and created Palmaz Vineyards, the only winery operating completely underground.
His wife, Amalia, is president. His daughter, Florencia, heads marketing, and his son, Christian, is director of operations.
Everything is as it should be in Palmaz’ non-scientific life and this allows him to excel at his true passion – scientific innovation.
Eighteen years after the Palmaz stent received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the bare-metal version of the device hasn’t changed much.
The challenge is that even with the success of stents – now deployed in 2 million patients annually to repair clogged arteries near the heart and elsewhere in the body – they remain foreign objects in the body that can incite an immune response. Palmaz said they fail up to 25 percent of the time.
The latest variation, the drug-eluting stent, was meant to solve the compatibility problem through a steady release of immune-suppressing drugs. It, too, has drawbacks. According to Palmaz, this alternative distracted from what should have been the focus – the development of a next-generation stent made of materials with fewer impurities.
With his company, Palmaz Scientific, he is going back to the drawing board to create the best stent for the patient incorporating the latest technologies and science.
"I’ve always had an obsession to get to the bottom of things."
The need is significant. More than 81 million Americans over age 20 have one or more types of cardiovascular disease such as high blood pressure, coronary heart disease or congestive heart failure. Peripheral vascular disease is estimated to affect up to 10 million Americans. UC Davis Health System is improving cardiovascular health through state-of-the-art patient care, cutting-edge research, education and outreach.