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Startups Filling Medical Device Incubator at UMass Lowell

New $4 Million Facility to Serve as Innovation Hub

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A new business incubator at the University of Massachusetts Lowell has attracted eight medical device startups to its laboratory and office space,  the Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center (M2D2) announced today at the official opening. 

The incubator is the result of a $4 million renovation that has transformed 14,000 square feet of a former mill building into a state-of-the-art facility with wet laboratories and office and meeting space for emerging companies. Already, the incubator is nearly at capacity, with most of the labs and private offices leased.  The startups are developing products to address such critical health issues as glaucoma, wound care and osteoporosis-related fractures. 

 “An innovative initiative in its own right, M2D2 is helping to grow the innovation economy,” said UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan. “Start-up medical device companies are eager for our support. Already, eight companies are moving in to the new incubator.”

M2D2 is a UMass Lowell-UMass Worcester initiative charged with bridging the gap between the invention and production of new medical devices, a key segment of the Massachusetts economy. Over the past decade, Massachusetts’ medical device exports have grown at more than twice the rate of the state’s overall exports. The industry employs nearly 25,000 workers in the Commonwealth and is responsible for creating more than 80,000 jobs in related industries, according to recent study by Deloitte.

Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration provided funding for the renovation project, which was managed by the UMass Building Authority. 

“Even in the midst of unprecedented fiscal challenges, the Patrick-Murray Administration has made it a priority to make critical investments in our public higher education facilities,” said Secretary of Administration and Finance Jay Gonzalez, who attended today’s opening.  “The new M2D2 facility will enable UMass Lowell to build on its experience of making valuable workforce and other contributions to an innovation industry that is a key to our economic growth and success in the years to come.”

The incubator is the latest of M2D2’s efforts to provide inventors and entrepreneurs with access to world-class resources and researchers at the Lowell and Worcester campuses of the University of Massachusetts and foster innovation, from proof-of-concept to commercialization. Tapping the universities’ broad-based expertise in engineering, business management, medical procedures and FDA processes, M2D2 helps emerging companies with prototypes, product designs, business plan development, market assessments and clinical trials.

“The medical device industry is critical to the Massachusetts economy,” said Thomas Sommer, President of MassMEDIC – the state’s medical device industry council. “We commend the UMass campuses and the Commonwealth for their efforts to keep it a thriving industry.” 

“This facility provides new opportunities for medical device startup companies,” said UMass Lowell Prof. Stephen McCarthy, co-director of M2D2. “The wet labs, together with expertise offered by engineering faculty, can help entrepreneurs design cutting-edge products that doctors and clinicians will want to use.” 

The co-director from the Worcester campus, Asst. Vice Provost for Clinical Research Sheila Noone, said,  “UMass Worcester’s faculty clinicians help medical device entrepreneurs understand how a device would be used in practice, providing a critical M2D2 service.”

“UMass is continuing to lead the way in developing meaningful partnerships between its universities and the private sector,” said state Sen. Eileen Donoghue, who serves as Vice Chairwoman of the legislature’s Joint Committee on Higher Education. “I applaud the Lowell and Worcester UMass campuses for their commitment to serving the crucial medical device industry.”

“The M2D2 group recognized early on that new product ideas don’t magically turn into marketable products,” said state Rep. Thomas Golden. “Providing this business incubator is just one way they are helping medical device entrepreneurs get their products to market.”

More than 20 M2D2-affiliated startups companies were on hand at today’s event, showcasing their new product ideas. Medical problems addressed by those entrepreneurs include bedsores, uterine prolapse and overuse of angioplasty.

Located in Lowell’s historic Wannalancit Mills building, the incubator was designed by the firm Stantec, which has offices in Boston and Westford. The design retains the industrial look and feel of the building’s original use as a textile mill, with exposed brick walls and wood decking in the ceiling while blending in modern office amenities such as a folding glass wall in the conference room and adaptable desk and lab tables.

M2D2, the Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center, is a UMass Lowell-UMass Medical School 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.

Christine Gillette