M2D2 Assists 23 Start-ups Since Launch

11/25/2008
By For more information, contact media@uml.edu or 978-934-3224

LOWELL, Mass. ߝ Co-directors of the Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center (M2D2) today announced that the center, a UMass Lowell-UMass Worcester partnership, has assisted a total of 23 start-up companies and entrepreneurs since the program kicked off in spring 2007 with the charge of helping to bridge the gap between invention and production of new medical devices.

Ten start-ups have received funding through M2D2. Five of those received matching funds under M2D2’s “fast-lane” program, and five gained federal funding with M2D2’s assistance. Both the “fast-lane” and federal grant assistance programs were supported primarily through competitive awards to M2D2 by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative’s John Adams Innovation Institute.

"In this economic climate, there is a critical need for M2D2’s services to keep the pipeline of new medical device products flowing,” said UMass Lowell Prof. Stephen McCarthy, M2D2 co-director. “Credit is tightening and private investors are even less inclined to support early-stage medical device companies than they were only a few months ago. M2D2 helps companies cross that ‘Valley of Death.’"

Fellow co-director Prof. Sheila Noone, assistant vice provost for clinical research at UMass Worcester, said, “Both the Worcester and Lowell campuses are committed to helping grow the life sciences sector in the Commonwealth.” UMass Worcester doctors and nurses provide M2D2-applicant entrepreneurs a medical screen while Lowell’s management college provides a business screen ߝ hurdles companies must pass before receiving more direct M2D2 support.

“Companies come to M2D2. We give them a lot of advice, and that’s a valuable part of our charge,” said M2D2 Steering Committee chairman Hooks Johnston, former senior vice president at Smith & Nephew in Andover.

Two early-stage companies last week got a shot-in-the-arm from M2D2, when its steering committee voted to provide fast-lane support.

  • Christopher LaFarge’s MedicaMetrix of Wayland is developing a “ProstaGlove” that would provide a quantitative rather than qualitative measurement of prostate volume through a disposable procedure glove with an embedded sensor;
  • Thomas Kottler’s VeinAid® LLC of Fairfield, CT, is developing an externally applied device to relieve the pain, embarrassment and circulatory problems caused by varicose veins.

In addition to matching funding, M2D2 will provide materials development and clinical trial assistance for MedicaMetrix. LaFarge anticipates job growth in the Commonwealth as its product moves through the FDA approval process.

VeinAid® expects to add marketing operations in Massachusetts as the product moves into production. In addition to matching funds, M2D2 will provide assistance with the product’s mold development and access to the venture capital community.

M2D2-applicant-companies also received access to potential venture capital and angel investors at a recent Merrimack Valley Venture Forum- and M2D2-sponsored event showcasing their new medical device ideas. More than 150 attended the forum.

To date, 15 of the 23 M2D2-assisted companies have applied for the fast-lane program and received business and medical assessments as part of that process, and five of those were named fast-lane companies ߝ the two selected last week and the following selected at a previous board meeting:

  • Oz Technologies of Bay State Health Care in Springfield for a user-friendly pessary;
  • Smart Surfaces of Worcester for an ulcer prevention mattress; and 
  • Aurora of Cambridge for a swelling hemostat to control bleeding from trauma.

M2D2 also helped eight additional start-ups apply for federal grants. Five were awarded, for a success rate far higher than usual for such grant applications.  Grants awarded from the National Institutes of Health were:

  • A $1.2 million STTR fast-track grant to Dr. Tim Wu’s VasoTech, Inc. of Lowell to further develop a biodegradable drug-eluting stent;
  • A $500,000 SBIR Phase II grant to Source Production of Andover for brachytherapy, a radioactive-based treatment for lung cancer;
  • A $318,000 STTR Phase I grant to Vista Scientific of Andover for non-invasive ophthalmic drug delivery devices, including a nanosphere-antibiotic corneal contact lens;

Grants awarded from the Department of Defense’s STTR grant program were:

  • A $100,000 grant to Aragon of Lowell for a neuromuscular biosensor;  and
  • A $100,000 grant to Kazak of Woburn for a portable “Jaws of Life.”

M2D2, the Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center, is a UMass Lowell-UMass Worcester initiative that is helping entrepreneurs move new medical device ideas from patent to production. M2D2 helps them prototype and test inventions, obtain funding and build management teams so that new medical devices will be developed in the Bay State. M2D2 was established with seed funding from the UMass President’s office and is supported by the two campuses, the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative’s John Adams Innovation Institute and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.