Cleveland Clinic was at the forefront of modern medicine when it was first organized as a multi-specialty group practice in 1921. From a small outpatient clinic, it has grown to become the world’s first integrated international health system – growth made possible through innovation. With nearly 70,000 caregivers worldwide, Cleveland Clinic has almost 6 million patient visits per year at more than 200 locations.
With every passing appointment, the care Cleveland Clinic patients receive becomes more advanced and effective through our caregivers’ constant challenge of the status quo. Allowing us to welcome change, encourage invention, and continually seek better, more efficient ways to achieve our goals, innovation has displayed itself time and time again since our founding 100 years ago.
Innovation at Cleveland Clinic fosters this core value daily – promoting the unyielding advances of our caregiver base. With pride, we continue the tradition of innovation and recognize our activities are made possible through its presence in our DNA. Learn more about the enterprise’s culture of innovation through this CNN documentary episode, our forthcoming six-part series, and the timeline of enterprise breakthroughs below.
1936 – Innovative Thyroidectomies Considered a Surgical Landmark
In 1936, George Crile, Sr., MD, completed his landmark 25,000th thyroid operation. Dr. Crile developed an innovative technique to perform thyroidectomies rapidly with good outcomes. Ohio was part of the “goiter belt” before the iodization of salt, and thyroid removal was the mainstay of the Clinic’s practice throughout the 1930s.
1948 – Discovery of Serotonin Neurotransmitter
Arda A Green, MD, along with Maurice Rapport, PhD, and Irvine Page, MD, discovered a compound they named “serotonin” in 1948. Serotonin has been shown to have an effect on tumor formation and neurotransmission. It is the target of drugs like Prozac that have become among the best-selling pharmaceuticals in the world. Dr. Green made a number of important discoveries before coming to Cleveland Clinic in 1945, and continued to do so after her departure in 1953. Among her later interests was bioluminescence – the factor that makes fireflies glow.
1950 – First Dialysis Program in the US
In 1950, Willem Kolff, MD, PhD, initiates the first dialysis program in the US. Dr. Kolff not only invented kidney dialysis, he established the first hospital-based Department of Artificial Organs at Cleveland Clinic and designed a variety of heart assist-devices.
1957 – Synthetic Angiotensin Developed
In 1957, Merlin Bumpus, MD, Irvine Page, MD, and team synthesize angiotensin. The substance duplicates a natural substance implicated in hypertension and has been invaluable in subsequent hypertension research. Dr. Bumpus followed Dr. Page as chair of the Division of Research.
1958 – Development of Coronary Angiography
F. Mason Sones, MD, discovered moving cine-coronary angiography at Cleveland Clinic in 1958. Dr. Sones was a pediatric cardiologist with an interest in angiography – the real-time X-ray visualization of the blood vessels. At that time, it was believed that the coronary arteries were off-limits to this procedure because the injection of contrast dye into the vessels around the heart would trigger fatal cardiac arrest. When Dr. Sones accidentally injected dye into the patient's artery, he discovered that not only did the patient not die, but that it was now possible to see inside the vessels of the heart as never before. This discovery revealed the natural history of coronary artery disease and ultimately led to Cleveland Clinic's pioneering work in coronary artery bypass and to its rise to national leadership in heart care.
1967 – First Cadaver Kidney Transplant
Led by Ralph Straffon, MD, Bruce Stewart, MD, and Eugene Poutasse, MD, Cleveland Clinic surgeons report the success of cadaver kidney transplants. This series made kidney transplants a practical (not experimental) option for patients with end-stage kidney disease.
1967 – First Coronary Artery Bypass
In 1967, René Favaloro, MD, pioneers coronary artery bypass surgery with a new procedure grafting a saphenous vein from the leg to diseased coronary arteries to increase blood flood to the heart. Dr. Favaloro publishes the world’s first reported coronary artery bypass surgery in 1968, and Cleveland Clinic’s pioneering cardiac surgery program gains new prominence.
1979 – LVAD with Centrifugal Pump Installed Successfully
In 1979, Leonard Golding, MD, successfully installs a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) with a centrifugal pump, used to bridge patients until a donor heart becomes available or, increasingly, as a long-term alternative to transplantation.
1996 – First Minimally Invasive Aortic Heart Valve Surgery
In 1991, Toby Cosgrove, MD, develops innovative valvuloplasty techniques to repair heart valves. Licensed to Edwards Lifesciences in 1993 with help from Innovation at Cleveland Clinic, one such innovation, the Cosgrove-Edwards Annuloplasty System, was a vast improvement from its predecessor and is still in use today. Three years later, in 1996, Dr. Cosgrove performs the first minimally invasive heart valve surgery at Cleveland Clinic. To learn more about the Cosgrove-Edwards Annuloplasty System, click here, and keep an eye out for our forthcoming conversation with Dr. Cosgrove on Health Amplified – a Cleveland Clinic podcast.
1998 – First Successful Larynx Transplant
Marshall Strome, MD, former chair of otolaryngology, performed the world's first successful larynx transplant at Cleveland Clinic in 1998. To prepare himself for the operation, Dr. Strome learned and exhaustively practiced microsurgical techniques.
2000 – Innovation at Cleveland Clinic Founded
Focusing on domain portfolios – life science, medical device, health information technology, and delivery solutions – and leveraging caregivers’ passion for medical advancement, Innovation at Cleveland Clinic drives patient-centered solutions to market. The team uses a unique approach to assess, protect, build, test, and market the most promising ideas of enterprise caregivers. The department also grows strategic licensed and patented solutions out of Cleveland Clinic into investible, standalone companies for the resolution of large medical problems and accelerates the deployment of patient-benefitting technologies through opportunities in co-development, co-investment, and shared risk and returns. Visit our website to learn more, view our technology catalog, startup portfolio, collaboration opportunities, and connect with team members.
2004 – Statin Therapy Shown to Reduce Plaque in Coronary Arteries
A landmark Cleveland Clinic-led trial is published, showing for the first time that intensive cholesterol lowering with a statin can reverse atherosclerosis — hardening of the arteries — in the coronary arteries. These developments raised the bar for lipid-lowering therapies and reshaped how they are evaluated.
2004 – Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) Pioneered
Lars Svensson, MD, PhD, along with E Murat Tuzcu, MD, and Samir Kapadia, MD, pioneer the transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR). View more, and get to know Dr. Kapadia through this recent Q&A interview.
2005 – Founding of Atrial Fibrillation Innovation Center
The State of Ohio awarded Cleveland Clinic a $23 Million Ohio Third Frontier Grant (TECH 05-066) in 2005 to establish the Atrial Fibrillation Innovation Center (AFIC) with the objective to accelerate the pace of AF technology development and commercialization in Ohio. The grant enabled AFIC to build a state of the art dedicated preclinical research and development facility at Cleveland Clinic, equipped with specialty surgical, imaging, and measurement systems ideal for both electrophysiology research and broader cardiovascular product development. In 2008, the AFIC facility merged under the GCIC program and continues its operation to this day on a sustained cash flow positive basis, long after the original AFIC grant period ended.
2005 – Development of Virtual Histology
D Geoffrey Vince, PhD, develops virtual histology through intravascular ultrasound. This provides an accurate picture of vascular plaque.
2006 – Introduction of Novel Left Atrial Appendage Device
A Marc Gillinov, MD, and Toby Cosgrove, MD, develop a clip to isolate the left atrial appendage (LAA) and prevent strokes associated with atrial fibrillation. Known as the AtriClip device, the LAA management system was licensed by Innovation at Cleveland Clinic to atrial fibrillation solutions company, AtriCure. In peer-reviewed publications, the AtriClip device achieved a successful LAA exclusion rate of 97% on average. Upwards of 200,000 AtriClip devices have been implanted to date. To learn more about the AtriClip technology, click here, and get to know Dr. Gillinov through this recent Q&A interview.
2007 – Global Cardiovascular Innovation Center Established
With heart disease and stroke among the most widespread and costly health problems facing our nation in the early 2000’s, emphasis was placed on Cleveland Clinic’s ability to attack cardiovascular disease through new biological, electrical, and mechanical breakthroughs. To quell a widening gap between academic center research breakthroughs and deployment of medical products to patients, the State of Ohio’s Third Frontier Program awarded Cleveland Clinic a $60 Million grant to found the cardiovascular product development consortium that would become the Global Cardiovascular Innovation Center (GCIC). Founded in 2007, GCIC was the first Wright Mega-Center of Innovation under this program. Since beginning of operations in early 2007 through December 2019, GCIC, with the help of its incubator facility, achieved significant success in promoting and supporting technology based economic development throughout the state of Ohio. Read the GCIC Final Grant Report published in 2020.
2007 – First Kidney Surgery Performed through the Navel
The first kidney surgery through a patient's navel is completed.
2007 – Bronchial Artery Revascularization Pioneered
Gösta Pettersson, MD, PhD, pioneers bronchial artery revascularization to better restore blood supply to the bronchial arteries, reducing complications in patients undergoing lung transplant.
2008 – Nation’s First Near-Total Face Transplant
Maria Siemionow, MD, PhD, leads the team that performs America's first face transplant. View more, and keep an eye out for our forthcoming conversation with Dr. Siemionow on Health Amplified – a Cleveland Clinic podcast.
2008 – Discovery of Genes Linked to Cancer
Charis Eng, MD, PhD, discovers two genes linked to cancer. Dr. Eng received the American Cancer Society’s Medal of Honor, the organization’s highest award, for this work in 2018. Read more about Dr. Eng and her award.
2008 – Discovery that Adult Brain Neurons Can Regenerate
Bruce Trapp, PhD, discovers growth of new neurons in adult brains. View more.
2011 – Discovery that Intestinal Bacteria Product (TMAO) Can Predict Heart Disease Risk
A research team led by Stanley Hazen, MD, PhD, makes several pioneering discoveries in atherosclerosis and inflammatory disease, including the seminal discovery linking the gut microbiome pathways to cardiovascular disease (CVD) pathogenesis and the development of heart failure and chronic kidney disease. Dr. Hazen’s biomarker platform test to determine cardiovascular risk was eventually licensed to Cleveland Heart Lab, a company subsequently acquired by Quest Diagnostics, and established as the entity’s National Cardiometabolic Center of Excellence in 2017 – work facilitated through Innovation at Cleveland Clinic. View more and read our profile of Dr. Hazen, ‘Lifelong Innovation: The TMAO Story,’ here.
2012 – Development of a Minimally Invasive Alternative to Repair Acute Aortic Dissection
Eric Roselli, MD, develops a minimally invasive alternative to repair acute aortic dissection, a tearing of aortic tissue that causes internal bleeding and often death in patients who are ineligible for open-heart surgery. View more.
2013 – NIH Center for Accelerated Innovations Established
Cleveland Clinic successfully competed for an NIH award to establish an NIH Center for Accelerated Innovations (NCAI) in 2013. The NCAI-Cleveland Clinic, includes partnering institutions Case Western Reserve University, The Ohio State University, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, the University of Cincinnati, the University of Michigan, and Northwestern University. It is one of only three such Centers in the country, and the only one between the coasts. Funded with grants totaling $14 Million from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), the NCAI provides project funding, expert project management guidance and a program for educating and mentoring researchers, clinicians and developers. Projects are related to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of heart, lung, blood and sleep-disorder conditions across the range of diagnostics, devices, and therapeutics. The NCAI center is managed in close conjunction with and by the same operational staff as GCIC. Learn more about NCAI-CC, here.
2014 – Development of Comprehensive Novel Cardiac Inpatient Remote Monitoring Program
Led by Dan Cantillon, MD, Cleveland Clinic launches a dedicated off-site central monitoring unit (CMU) to provide 24/7 secondary cardiac telemetry monitoring for non-critically ill patients at the health system’s main campus and two of its regional hospitals. Removed from the distractions of normal hospital activities, CMU technicians provide urgent notification to bedside nurses or hospital emergency rapid response teams to aid patients in immediate danger of cardiac arrest. Get to know Dr. Cantillon and his innovative efforts through this recent Q&A interview.
2015 – Acquisition of Novel Healthcare Intelligence Cloud Spinoff
Spun off from the enterprise by Innovation at Cleveland Clinic in 2009, healthcare intelligence cloud company Explorys was acquired by industry powerhouse IBM in 2015. Originally inspired by physicians and informatics leaders, Explorys combined the most powerful healthcare computing platform in the world with turnkey solutions for clinical integration, at-risk population management, cost of care measurement, and pay-for-performance solutions. The acquisition strengthened IBM’s leadership position in healthcare analytics and cloud computing, and bolstered its ability to extract and share deep insights to improve wellness and benefit patients. In 2018 IBM created a home for the conglomerate in Cleveland – creating an estimated 125 additional jobs in the area. View more and visit their website.
2017 – Demonstration that Bariatric Surgery Controls Diabetes
Cleveland Clinic research shows that after five years, bariatric surgery and medication together improve hyperglycemia and can even reverse diabetes. View more.
2017 – Discovery of Brain Cancer Interaction with Immune System
Cleveland Clinic researchers, led by Justin Lathia, PhD, uncover how brain cancer cells evade the immune system. View more.
2017 – First Total Face Transplant
In 2017, a team of 11 Cleveland Clinic surgeons and multiple specialists performed the hospital’s third face transplant – and its first total face transplant – on 21-year-old Katie Stubblefield, a woman who suffered severe facial trauma and other complications from a gunshot wound as a teenager. At the 2018 Medical Innovation Summit, Katie, her family, and her care team took the stage to detail her procedure and the path to recovery that followed. View the panel, ‘A Face Restored. A Life Transformed,’ here.
2017 – First Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) Surgery for Stroke Recovery
Cleveland Clinic has performed the first deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery for stroke recovery, as part of an ongoing clinical trial assessing the procedure’s potential to improve movement in patients recovering from a stroke. Led by Andre Machado, MD, PhD, Chair of Cleveland Clinic's Neurological Institute, this is the first time deep brain stimulation was performed for stroke recovery in the United States. View more.
2018 – Confirmation of Genetic Link in Prostate Cancer
Cleveland Clinic researchers, led by Nima Sharifi, MD, confirmed for the first time a mechanistic link between the gene HSD17B4 and deadly, treatment-resistant prostate cancer. View more.
2018 – Insight into Cancer Stem Cells and Breast Cancer
Cleveland Clinic researchers, led by Justin Lathia, PhD, and Ofer Reizes, PhD, uncover how cancer stem cells drive triple-negative breast cancer.
2019 – Successful Live Birth after Deceased Donor Uterine Transplant
Cleveland Clinic is the first in North America to deliver a baby following a uterus transplant from a deceased donor, as part of an active clinical trial. In 2016, Cleveland Clinic performed the nation's first uterus transplant; however, the patient developed complications that necessitated the removal of the transplanted uterus. View more.
2019 – First Robotic Single-Port Kidney Transplant
As an early adopter and innovator in robotic surgery, Cleveland Clinic has been the first to successfully use a single-port robotic surgical system to perform radical prostatectomies, transvesical simple prostatectomies, and partial nephrectomies. In 2019, Cleveland Clinic was the first in the world to perform a robotic single-port kidney transplant. View more.
2019 – Surgery Moves In Utero
Cleveland Clinic performs its first in utero fetal surgery. View more.
2020 – Preparation for COVID-19 Surge with Construction of the HOPE Hospital
When its models indicated that a potential local surge of COVID-19 infection might overwhelm hospital capacity in the area, Cleveland Clinic converted its Health Education Campus (which it shares with Case Western Reserve University) into a temporary surge hospital. Thanks to aggressive public health measures, the surge hospital was not needed, and it was decommissioned in June 2020. View more.
2020 – License of Vaccines for Breast & Ovarian Cancer
Inventor Vincent Tuohy, PhD, has a long history of developing autoimmune mouse models for human diseases, including breast and ovarian cancer. His current research activities focus on the preclinical and clinical development of vaccines designed not only to treat adult-onset cancers but also prevent such diseases. In 2019, Dr. Tuohy licensed his breast cancer vaccine technology to Anixa Biosciences with the help of Innovation at Cleveland Clinic, followed by the license of his ovarian cancer vaccine in 2020. An FDA-cleared trial of the breast cancer technology is slated to start at Cleveland Clinic in spring 2021. View the latest press release, and read about Dr. Tuohy and his cancer vaccine success in our forthcoming 2020 Annual Report.
2020 – Innovation Spreads through the Enterprise
In 2020, Cleveland Clinic established its Global Center for Pathogen Research and Human Health on Cleveland’s main campus and a Cleveland Clinic Florida Research and Innovation Center in Port St. Lucie, Fla – growing its commitment to facilitating innovation throughout the enterprise.
To view Cleveland Clinic’s full timeline of innovation, leadership, and industry novelties, click here