With his company CathWorks, Mousavi is transforming how cardiovascular disease is diagnosed and treated.

Merage School alum Ramin Mousavi, FEMBA '11 is making a difference in the healthcare industry

June 15, 2023 • By The UCI Paul Merage School of Business

When Ramin Mousavi thinks about the pivotal moments in his life, choosing to get his MBA from the Merage School was a key decision that led him to the forefront of the medical technology industry.

Prior to earning his business degree, Mousavi had spent several years in the aerospace industry, a logical career choice for somebody with undergraduate degrees from UCI in electrical and computer engineering. But while working for Panasonic Avionics and Rockwell Collins, Mousavi came to realize that his ambitious nature was incompatible with the industry and he needed to make a change.

“I made the conclusion that in the long run, I probably wasn’t going to be patient enough to work through the engineering ranks,” he said. “I decided that getting my MBA would be helpful to allow me to build my skill sets.”

While earning his MBA at the Merage School, Mousavi learned that he had a natural talent and passion for marketing. He also realized that he wanted to work in an industry that made a difference in peoples’ lives.

“I started reflecting on what I want to tell my kids about what I have accomplished when they grow up,” he said. “So I was in search of something with a greater purpose.”

Mousavi was also passionate about improving the patient experience in health care because his mother has cardiovascular disease.

“It is very personal because as a child I saw my mother go through the challenges associated with cardiovascular disease,” he said.

Mousavi spent about a decade working at Edwards Lifesciences, a global leader in patient-focused medical innovations for heart disease. But he was still always looking for the next big project on the horizon. An entrepreneur at heart, he was concerned with making his mark in the healthcare industry.

“I was trying to figure out my long-term career goals and the advice I got from mentors was that people tended to do something entrepreneurial at the end of their careers but people who do it earlier have more success,” he said.

That guidance led Mousavi to CathWorks, a startup aiming to transform how cardiovascular disease is diagnosed and treated.

It’s taken a few years to fully develop the company’s product but much of that growth occurred once Mousavi was named CEO in 2021.

“We restructured the entire organization and reconfigured the product the way the market needed us to do,” he said.

CathWorks aims to solve a major crisis in the diagnosis of coronary artery disease, which accounts for half of the cardiovascular deaths in the country every year. Cardiovascular-related deaths are the number one cause of death in the country.

Mousavi said that despite all the clinical evidence, only less than 15% of the patients who can benefit from comprehensive diagnosis currently receive such assessment. One of the reasons for this issue is that the tools available to detect coronary artery disease with a high accuracy are very invasive and additional drugs must be administered. CathWorks greatly improves the diagnostic process by eliminating the need for drug stimulation and invasive pressure wires.

CathWorks’ technology deals with the fractional flow reserve (FFR) diagnostic technique for coronary artery stenosis. The company’s FFRangio system improves the traditional FFR technique through using artificial intelligence and computational science to glean FFR values from angiograms.

“When people receive an angiogram on their heart, we take those 2D x-ray images of their heart and build a 3D model using artificial intelligence,” Mousavi explained. “We have basically a supercomputer that uses artificial intelligence and a proprietary algorithm to build a model of a heart and detect whether you have these blockages.

“This provides physicians with the most comprehensive view of a patient's coronary artery and heart before they make a determination of whether they should intervene in some form or fashion. We are going at the core of the number one cause of death, and we are trying to disrupt that by fundamentally transforming how all cardiovascular disease is diagnosed.”

Last year, Mousavi and his team facilitated a major achievement for CathWorks by entering into a strategic partnership with Medtronic, the largest medical device company in the world. Medtronic had a minority investment in CathWorks since 2018.

The agreement stipulates that Medtronic can acquire CathWorks for nearly $600 million in addition to potential undisclosed earnouts in a few years if certain milestones are reached. Medtronic also committed to investing $75 million and co-promoting the FFRangio system in the U.S., Europe, and Japan.

Following the announcement of the partnership, Jason Weidman of Medtronic said that the company was excited to partner with CathWorks to offer the FFRangio system to its customers.

“We believe strongly in the potential of the technology and are committed to strengthening our relationship with CathWorks to provide new, innovative technologies and solutions from diagnosis to treatment,” said Weidman, senior vice president and president of the Coronary & Renal Denervation business, which is part of the Cardiovascular Portfolio at Medtronic.

The partnership will help CathWorks overcome two barriers to success—expanding the reach of the product and getting physicians onboard with a novel technology. Mousavi said as a startup it’s difficult to rapidly identify, hire, and train experts to help overcome these hurdles because it’s expensive and they would need to be deployed globally to aid in the breakthrough of the FFRangio system.

“Part of why we entered into this agreement is that Medtronic already has the right channels to help establish FFRangio as a standard of care,” Mousavi said. “Medtronic has the tools, the means, and global presence necessary. I am convinced that we will change how cardiovascular disease is diagnosed with this partnership.” 

Mousavi traces much of his growth and confidence as a leader at CathWorks to his experiences at the Merage School, so he continues to give back to the School in a number of ways.

Mousavi serves as the Chair of the Dean’s Leadership Circle, a philanthropic business network for executives and innovators looking to support the Merage School. He has helped expand this funding opportunity that benefits students, faculty, and the local business community.

Mousavi also helps set the strategy for the School as a member of the Dean’s Advisory Board, and he has mentored competitors in the New Venture Competition, which is run by the Beall Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

“I've been very closely involved with the school because it's a very personal calling, nobody has to convince me that this place impacts people's lives,” Mousavi said. “My hope is that I pay it forward so the next generation of leaders that come in have the same opportunity that was provided to me. As a parent of two kids, I hope that they grow up to have similar opportunities that I had because I know I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for the Merage School.”

Mousavi enjoys being able to share his experiences and successes with students to help motivate them. The mentorship and networking opportunities at the school are rewarding for him personally and his career.

“I learned that networking is an annuity,” he said. “If you treat it as a transaction, if you just show up to the mixer when you want a job, then you’re not going to get what you want. That transactional nature is a turnoff to people. Whereas if you treat it like an annuity, and you invest in it when you have no intention of getting anything out of it, then it will be beneficial in the end. But this is also a very personal calling to me to help that next generation of leaders.”

Due to his dedication to the School, Mousavi has been named the 2023 Distinguished Commencement Speaker for the Merage School’s 55th annual celebration. He is excited to honor this year’s graduating class.

“Ramin is an exceptional business executive and continues to give back to the School in a number of ways,” said Dean Ian O. Williamson. “As one of the great success stories of the Merage School, Ramin is uniquely positioned to be our distinguished commencement speaker.”