Fred Lampropoulos, president of Merit Medical Systems Inc., looks the interviewer in the eye and says without reservation, "My objective is to be the best medical device company in the world."

Having turned in $575,000 in sales through his 10 models of disposable plastic syringes in the last seven months of 1988 and expecting $1.8 million in sales this year, Lampropoulos doesn't hesitate to make the statement.His business should get another boost because this month he's introducing to the American College of Cardiology a device that will be used in the process of angioplasty (treatment of artery problems by placing a balloon inside the heart).

Considering the fact that Lampropoulos started his company in September 1987 with two employees he lured away from their previous employer and that he introduced the syringes at the ACC meeting a year ago, Merit is adding to the Wasatch Front's reputation as "bionic valley."

A native of Boston, the 39-year-old Lampropoulos came to Salt Lake City with his family in 1964. He graduated from Granite High School and has enough credits from Westminster College and the University of Utah to graduate, but he doesn't have a diploma yet.

He worked for various stock brokerage companies between 1975 and 1979 but tired of making money for other poeple. He got involved in real estate and became one of the developers of Union Park in 1981. Contact with a man who asked Lampropoulos if he was interested in getting into the medical device business changed his business direction.

The man didn't tell Lampropoulos that Utah Medical Products Co. was nearly bankrupt, a situation caused when the company lost a lawsuit over a patent that left the company powerless to produce its main money-making product. He hired an attorney who told him he had a slight chance of winning the case on an appeal.

Lampropoulos invested some of his own money in Utah Medical and eventually settled the lawsuit with Sorenson Research, meaning Utah Medical was back in business. Utah Medical eventually acquired Medicor, a medical device research and development company, and when he left in June 1987 the company had sales of $7.7 million.

He had no clue what he would do next. He spent 60 days trying to develop a philosophy for a new company, attempting in the process to avoid previous mistakes and to write a business plan.