Medtronic VP: medical devices ‘finished’?; also: Delta-NWA merger official, Target pressed to spin off real estate, and Cub opens LEED store

A Medtronic V-P is catching flak for comments made at a meeting of med-tech innovators. “You can’t keep stuffing gizmos into people to treat end-stage disease,” said Stephen Oesterle, senior vice president for medicine and technology. Once biotechnology catches up, “we’re finished,” he said. He added that U.S. leadership in medical devices has more to do with access to risk capital than it does with innovation, noting most major devices were invented in Europe, Israel or South America before being commercialized here.

The Wall Street Journal’s Health Blog says Oesterle’s comments clearly contained “some hyperbole to drive home a bigger point.” A few readers missed that nuance, however. One person commenting under the alias “MDT Shareholder” said Oesterle’s remarks might have created a market for a new medical device, one that “would enable a skilled physician to remove ones foot from one’s own mouth.” (Enlist Joe Biden and John McCain in clinical trial?) A Medtronic spokesman said the remarks were meant to prompt thinking about what’s next.

It’s official: Delta and Northwest officials dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s Wednesday just hours after the Justice Department approved the merger. What’s next? New uniforms will be phased in next year, and Northwest’s red tail will be painted Delta blue over the next two years. The airlines’ flight schedules will be consolidated before next summer, they said. Officials say no hubs will be closed, though some experts are skeptical. (AP, USA Today)

Should Target spin off its real estate into a separate investment trust? Activist investor and hedge-fund manager Bill Ackman says yes, but company officials have reservations. Ackman argued in a presentation Wednesday that splitting the retailer from its real estate might double the company’s stock value. But Target says the move could reduce “financial flexibility” and hurt its debt rating, borrowing costs and liquidity. (AP, Portfolio, Star Tribune, PiPress)

Cub Foods celebrates the grand opening of the state’s first LEED-certified grocery store this weekend in St. Paul. There’s debate over whether big-box stores can ever be considered “green,” but Cub has done some good things with this one. They include skylights, LED lighting, energy-efficient coolers and a waste-recycling system. Mayor Chris Coleman and Arctic explorer Will Steger speak at a preview party this evening. It opens to the public 6 a.m. Friday.

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