Medical Innovation: New Device Center Wins $2.6 Million in Funding

Medical Innovation

The Southeast’s first comprehensive medical device innovation center has been awarded a total of $2.6 million to build and equip a prototyping design and development facility that will accelerate the commercialization of next-generation medical devices and technology.

The Global Center for Medical Innovation (GCMI) will receive $1.3 million from the Economic Development Administration, which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. That money will be matched by $1.3 million from the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA), a public-private organization that supports development of technology industry in Georgia.

GCMI is a partnership of four of Georgia’s leading research and health care organizations: the Georgia Institute of Technology, Saint Joseph’s Translational Research Institute (SJTRI), Piedmont Healthcare, and the GRA. The Center will bring together the core members of the medical device community, including universities, research centers and clinicians; established drug and device companies; investors, and early-stage companies.

“One of Georgia’s major research strengths is the ability to bring engineering together with the biosciences to create new solutions for health care problems,” said Stephen E. Cross, executive vice president for research at Georgia Tech. “The Global Center for Medical Innovation will help move innovations from the laboratory through the functional prototype stage, while coordinating the other commercialization activities necessary to bring them to market.”

To be located in an existing building on 14th Street near the Georgia Tech campus in Atlanta, the new facility will advance innovations that can be the basis for new products and new life-science companies. By providing comprehensive support services in one location, the Center will reduce the cost of developing and converting innovations into functional prototypes and clinical products.

“Investments being made in Georgia’s research universities are creating the knowledge and innovation needed to grow our medical device industry,” noted Mike Cassidy, president and CEO of the GRA. “We are supporting GCMI because it will help convert this knowledge and innovation into commercial products that will create jobs, new investments and new companies for Georgia.”

The Economic Development Administration expects the center to generate $72 million in new investments and create or save 161 jobs.

The grants will support renovation of the facility to house design, material and mechanical engineering resources, along with state-of-the-art rapid and functional prototyping equipment capable of producing a wide range of medical devices for development, pre-clinical testing and clinical studies. Within the next two months, the Center will request proposals and bids for architectural and engineering services needed for the new facility.

Because of the research strengths of the participating institutions, the Center’s initial focus will be on cardiology, orthopedics and pediatrics.

“Medical device companies in the Southeast have long been at a disadvantage compared to competitors elsewhere that have access to long-established support networks,” said Nicolas Chronos, M.D., president of the Saint Joseph’s Translational Research Institute (SJTRI-Atlanta). “This new center will help level the playing field, creating a single entity that will work with companies on comprehensive development activities. It will also provide a single location for investors seeking qualified medical device companies, and allow innovations created by multiple institutions to be combined to create more useful devices.”

Projects developed in the Center could be hosted at SJTRI’s new 18-bed, hospital-based facility for phase one and “first in human” testing. The facility, scheduled to open in July, will focus on industry and government translational projects.

Bringing together physicians who have experience in treating patients with scientists and engineers on the cutting edge of technology will facilitate the development of revolutionary new devices that meet real-world medical needs.

“Physicians who treat patients every day have a very real understanding of the need for new technology, but they usually lack the resources to translate their ideas and solutions into new medical devices,” said Jay S. Yadav, M.D., a cardiologist with Piedmont Heart Institute Physicians and CEO of Atlanta medical device company CardioMEMS. “By working with our partners in GCMI, we can meet the needs of our patients while creating new business opportunities.”

Obtaining financing for new products and new companies is always a challenge for medical device innovators. The new Center will help advance device and technology innovations far enough to interest investors.

“With the difficult economy and increasing pressure to minimize risk, few investors or potential partners are willing to consider new medical device concepts without working prototypes that have undergone rigorous development and pre-clinical testing,” noted William Schaeffer, a consultant working with GCMI. “The new prototyping center will offer the equipment and services necessary to bring new devices and technology to the stage at which they can attract interest from investors.”

GCMI grew out of a decade or more of experience commercializing discoveries from laboratories at the partner institutions.

“For many years we have seen the need for a prototyping center that would provide medical device innovators with the support they need to quickly bring new innovations to market,” said Wayne Hodges, executive director of the Center. “Our new facility will allow intellectual property developed in Atlanta, Georgia and the Southeast to remain here and provide long-term benefit as these innovations move into new products and new companies.”

While the Center is being organized by Atlanta-based organizations, it is expected to attract device developers from the Southeast, strengthening Atlanta’s role as a hub for medical technology development.

“We believe that this new facility will help expand the nucleus of medical device companies already here, making metro Atlanta, the state of Georgia and the Southeast a new hub for the world’s medical device industry,” Schaeffer added.

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