Center for MedTech Excellence Host SBA Leaders for Summit on Local Startup Ecosystem

Visit to gather information on challenges startups face from government support

When the Center for MedTech Excellence launched in the fall of 2022, it sought to tackle the challenges that early-stage medical device and biotech companies face in successfully getting to market.

Nakia Melecio, MedTech Center of Excellence director, addresses the SBA officials visiting the Tech campus to hear from startup founders. (PHOTO: Chris Ruggiero)

Since then, the MedTech Center, a program of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, has worked with and evaluated 208 companies. It has 66 active startups in its portfolio and helped them to get $9.5 million in venture capital funding, and $3.5 million in non-dilutive grants from the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer federal programs. Those portfolio companies have created a total of 174 jobs.

Dilawar Syed is the deputy administrator of the Small Business Administration. (PHOTO Chris Ruggiero)

“We’re bringing the best of the resources together to make sure that we’re creating an innovative ecosystem that supports our scientists,” MedTech Center Director Nakia Melecio said at a Jan. 9 meeting with Small Business Administration (SBA) Deputy Administrator Dilawar Syed.

Syed and officials from the SBA were in Atlanta as part of a multi-city tour to hear from entrepreneurs, their challenges, and what the agency could do better to help them succeed.

“There is so much focus on driving innovation in the present administration,” Syed said during his visit at Georgia Tech. “This program is a successful program. We want to make sure it becomes relevant for the next generation of entrepreneurs, especially in communities of color, especially in regions like Atlanta that often have not been at the forefront of driving innovation.”

SBA officials met with several MedTech Center portfolio companies and heard what their main challenges were, chief among them being timing for grants and what’s considered too early in a startup’s lifecycle when it comes to seeking funds from federal agencies.

Nikhil L. Shah, CEO and co-founder of Nephrodite, shared some of the pain points his company had after getting initial funding for its fully implantable continuous dialysis device for patients with end-stage renal disease.

Even though the company had received a $1.8 million grant from a German government agency, it faced several hurdles with U.S. federal funding agencies.

“We applied for the NSF [National Science Foundation] at first and we had that conundrum where they said, ‘you know, this is really early technology. It’s too early,’” he said. “We applied to NIH [National Institutes of Health], but they said, ‘you haven’t done animal studies. We really need animal studies.’ I said, well, I need money to do all that.”

Mason Chilmonczyk, is CEO and co-founder of Andson Biotech, a MedTech Center of Excellence portfolio company. (PHOTO: Chris Ruggiero)

It was similar to the experience of Mason Chilmonczyk, CEO and co-founder of Andson Biotech, a company focused on accelerating the discovery, development, and manufacturing of advanced cell-based therapies.

He and his team sought out program officers with the agency to get guidance before pitching or applying for funds. But he said they were told they were not far enough along in product development, or they were too advanced in the company’s lifecycle.

“You’re too early, this tool is too experimental, or you have too much traction,” he said. “It’s like, it’s too developed almost.”

He and other founders who met with SBA officials welcome support from federal agencies and appreciate the rigorous evaluations process for medical device and life science companies. But the founders who spoke said it would be helpful to know exactly what federal agencies want and more specifics on why a given grant application was rejected.

“I only get a couple pages of feedback…one of the things we need is to just have better education, so you choose to invest your time or not.”

It’s a message that Syed said he would take back to Washington.

“It just strikes me every time we hear from founders how much more work we have to do to drive awareness,” he said, noting it must be an interagency effort. “It’s the entire federal government and SBA’s job is to coordinate that for everyone — better coordination, better communication, make sure people understand whether they’re ready to apply for this or not.”

Center for MedTech Excellence Named Inaugural Member of ARPA-H Investor Catalyst Hub Spoke Network

MedTech Center joins a national network focused
on accelerating transformative health solutions

ATLANTA — The Center for MedTech Excellence announced today it has been selected as an inaugural spoke for the Investor Catalyst Hub, a regional hub of ARPANET-H, a nationwide health innovation network launched by the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H).

Center for MedTech Excellence Director Nakia Melecio. (Photo: Péralte C. Paul)

An economic development program of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, the Center for MedTech Excellence boasts a robust track record of pioneering innovation and fostering collaboration within the medical technology industry, making it a prime candidate for a strategic partnership as a spoke partner.

Its deep industry expertise and commitment to advancing cutting-edge solutions position it as an asset for any collaborative endeavor.

Based in the Greater Boston area and managed by VentureWell, the Investor Catalyst Hub aims to accelerate the commercialization of practical, accessible biomedical solutions. It utilizes an innovative hub-and-spoke model designed to reach a wide range of nonprofit organizations and minority-serving institutions, with the ultimate aim of delivering scalable healthcare outcomes for all Americans.

“I consider it a privilege to be a part of the ARPA-H network,” MedTech Center Director Nakia Melecio said. “Not only do we have the opportunity to contribute our capabilities to this influential network, but we also gain access to valuable resources, opportunities, and a transformative investor catalyst hub that will significantly impact our region.

The Center for MedTech Excellence joins a dynamic nationwide network of organizations aligned to ARPA-H’s overarching mission to improve health outcomes through the following research focus areas: health science futures, proactive health, scalable solutions, and resilient systems.

The Investor Catalyst Hub spokes represent a broad spectrum of expertise, geographic diversity, and community perspectives.

“Our spoke network represents a rich and representative range of perspectives and expertise,” said Mark Marino, vice president of Growth Strategy and Development for VentureWell and project director for the Investor Catalyst Hub. “Our spokes comprise a richly diverse network that will be instrumental in ensuring that equitable health solutions reach communities across every state and tribal nation.”

As an Investor Catalyst Hub spoke, Center for MedTech Excellence gains access to potential funding and flexible contracting for faster award execution compared to traditional government contracts. Spoke membership also offers opportunities to provide input on ARPA-H challenge areas and priorities, along with access to valuable networking opportunities and a robust resource library.

The spoke network will continue to grow as the Investor Catalyst Hub expands its efforts, with applications being selected on a rolling basis. Interested organizations can visit investorcatalysthub.org to learn more or submit a membership application.

About the Center for MedTech Excellence
We catalyze the development and commercialization of breakthrough biotechnology, medical devices, life science, and therapeutic innovations. As program of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, we serve as trusted partners and deliver a complete toolkit to enhance the odds of success for an early-stage biotech company. To learn more, visit medtech.gatech.edu.

Nakia Melecio Receives Golden Helix Award

WINNERS: Nakia Melecio (left) and Sherry Farrugia show their Golden Helix Awards following the March 29 gala at the Fox Theatre. (PHOTO: Péralte Paul)

The Center for Global Health Innovation’s (CGHI) Office of Life Sciences and Digital Health awarded Nakia Melecio with the Golden Helix Community Award for his dedication to Georgia’s life sciences community.

Melecio, the founding director of the Enterprise Innovation Institute’s Center for MedTech Excellence, was one of six individuals honored with Community Awards at the March 29 event which recognized 21 individuals, companies, and organizations with awards at 25th annual gala.

Sherry Farrugia, CEO, of the Global Center for Medical Innovation, a Georgia Tech affiliate, was presented with the Industry Growth Award, for her tireless efforts and significant contributions to growing the life sciences industry in Georgia.

“Our community strives to improve patients’ lives, support workforce development, grow Georgia’s economy, and be a driving force for good in the world,” said CGHI CEO Maria Thacker Goethe in a statement. “The Golden Helix Awards highlights those lasting contributions made by many in the life sciences sector in Georgia.”

In his role as director of the Center for MedTech Excellence, Melecio works to catalyze the development and commercialization of breakthrough biotechnology, medical devices, life science, and therapeutic innovations.

He also  works with other Georgia Tech programs including VentureLab and the Advanced Technology Development Center, as well as other organizations such as the National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Defense.

“It’s an honor to be counted among the champions here in Georgia who are trying to put the life sciences ecosystem on the map and working behind the scenes from a policy perspective, an academic perspective, and venture capital perspective to really help build the infrastructure and support entrepreneurs,” Melecio said. “To be able to be recognized and to have a voice, that’s what I’m proud of — being able to work with great entrepreneurs and great schools that have a passion for this ecosystem.”