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Shuttle 12-10-08


UMass Shuttle, December 10, 2008

by Renae Lias Claffey

In its first 18 months of operation, the Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center (M2D2) has helped 23 start-up companies and entrepreneurs bridge the gap between invention and production of new medical devices.

Ten start-ups have received funding. Five of those received matching funds under M2D2’s “fast-lane” program, and five gained federal funding with M2D2’s assistance. Both the “fastlane” 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,” says Stephen McCarthy, who co-directs M2D2. “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 Sheila Noone, assistant vice provost for clinical research at UMass Worcester, says, “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— 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,” says M2D2 Steering Committee Chairman Hooks Johnston, former senior vice president at Smith & Nephew in Andover.

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:

  • Aurora of Cambridge for a swelling hemostat to control bleeding from trauma;
  • Thomas Kottler’s VeinAid® LLC of Fairfield, Conn., which is developing an externally applied device to relieve the problems caused by varicose veins
  • Christopher LaFarge’s MedicaMetrix of Wayland, for a “ProstaGlove” that would provide a quantitative rather than qualitative measurement of prostate volume;
  • Oz Technologies of Bay State Health Care in Springfield for a user-friendly pessary; and
  • Smart Surfaces of Worcester for an ulcer prevention mattress.

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

M2D2 has also helped eight additional start-ups apply for federal grants. Five were awarded. Grants awarded from the National Institutes of Health included 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 and two others totaling more than $800,000. An additional $200,000 was awarded from the DoD’s STTR program for two companies.

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