A number of academic medical institutions have announced medical-device research and development initiatives in recent weeks as part of efforts that some states are making to refocus their manufacturing industries and create high-tech jobs.
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The initiatives include the recent announcement that Wichita (Kan.) State University and 749-bed Via Christi Regional Medical Center will partner to develop the Center of Innovation for Biomaterials in Orthopedic Research in Wichita. Supported by a $20 million, five-year grant from the Kansas Bioscience Authority, the center will focus on research and design of high-risk devices such as orthopedic implants and low-risk items like braces and splints.
Other efforts include the Cleveland Clinic-backed Global Cardiovascular Innovation Centers recent investment in three Israeli devicemakers; and a partnership between the Georgia Institute of Technology, St. Josephs Translational Research Institute (a division of 410-bed St. Josephs Hospital in Atlanta), four-hospital Piedmont Healthcare and the Georgia Research Alliance to establish the Global Center for Medical Innovation, Atlanta.
In each case, the R&D initiatives seek to take advantage of resources that the states already possess, said officials familiar with the projects.
We, like a number of states or regions, are looking for ways to augment the economy and move towards more high-tech, high-paying industries, said Mark Low, managing director of the Global Cardiovascular Innovation Center in Cleveland.
The center recently invested $1 million to set up Ohio-based offices for three Israeli companiesCardiostar, Sensible Medical Innovations and Vasostarthat are conducting R&D on a variety of cardiovascular devices. The companies, Low said, will have access to the cardiovascular clinical expertise provided by Cleveland Clinic physicians and researchers as well as the manufacturing expertise of the polymer and rubber industries, which have long produced products for the auto industry. Theres a great opportunity to apply that technology to coatings for medical devices, Low said.
Likewise, Kansas officials are hoping to revitalize their states troubled aviation industry by finding new uses for airplane composite materials created by researchers and manufacturers there. Those materials could be used to create orthopedic implants that last longer and better mimic bone than traditional metal implants, said Michael Good, director of business operations for Via Christi Research.
Right now, were in an aviation slump, Good said. What were looking at is taking the skilled labor that we have and redirecting it into other industries. Right now, with the aging of America and the increasing rates of obesity, you have a great need for new medical devices.
Wayne Hodges, vice provost of the Georgia Tech Enterprise and Innovation Institute, said the Global Center for Medical Innovation will focus on research and development of cardiovascular, orthopedic and pediatric medical devices. The effort will match the engineers capabilities at Georgia Tech up with our hospitals clinicians and the ideas they are developing, Hodges said. The multiresource effort will include construction of a $3 million to
$5 million design and prototype center and a $10 million to $15 million preclinical research facility funded by St. Josephs Hospital.
Though Georgia doesnt have a manufacturing base like the ones already present in Kansas and Ohio, officials involved with the effort still see significant financial and job-growth opportunities for Georgia in the medical-device industry. The R&D gets us to the jobs, Hodges said. Our manufacturing base isnt huge, but its growing. Our goal is to provide the infrastructure for that.
One substantial appeal of the medical-device industry is that if states make a successful bid to capture business they ultimately would draw highly skilled science and design jobs as well as manufacturing jobs to the region.
Academic medical centers also stand to gain if their research results in Food and Drug Administration-approved devices. I think there certainly will be some payoff from the revenue generated from intellectual property and licensing fees, said David McDonald, associate provost of research for Wichita State University.
But while the medical-device industry may hold promise for long-term growth and high-paying jobs, McDonald acknowledged that there may be room for only a limited number of regional players in the industry. He ultimately sees states catering to specific medical-device markets such as cardiovascular, orthopedic or surgical instruments.
I think what will drive that is early success and industry partnerships, McDonald said. I think segmentation will almost certainly take place.
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