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PASSINGS / Peer Portner

Nuclear physicist invented implanted heart pump

February 18, 2009|Times Staff and Wire Reports

Peer Portner, 68, the inventor of an implanted electrical pump for heart-failure patients, died of cancer Feb. 9 at his home in the San Francisco Bay area, according to an announcement from Stanford University.

Originally trained as a nuclear physicist, Portner became a consulting professor of cardiothoracic surgery at Stanford University School of Medicine. He began working with doctors at the school in the early 1970s to develop his pump, called the left ventricular assist device.

In 1984, the device kept a heart patient alive for eight days until a transplant was found, the first time such a device was successfully implanted in a human, the university said.

He founded Oakland-based Novacor Medical Corp. to develop the pump and led research for more than 30 years to improve the device.

More than 1,700 patients in more than 100 medical centers around the world have had one of the devices implanted.

Portner was born a British citizen in Kenya and received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from McGill University in Montreal. He was a National Research Council Fellow at Oxford University in England.

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