Report offers guidance on Baltimore’s growing medical device community

Doctor workplace with digital tablet and stethoscope

More than 70 med-tech company CEOs and interested supporters attended a meeting on Oct. 9, 2015 for the release of a report about the med-tech industry in the Greater Baltimore region.

The event was sponsored by the Greater Baltimore Committee as a way to start a discussion about how to address the gaps in resources for this young industry. In a panel discussion following the release of the report three med-tech CEOs – Carolyn Yarina of Sisu Global Health, Jason Brooke of Vasoptic and Tim Askew from PharmaLab – engaged with the audience in a lively exchange about what should be done to grow the industry sector.

Among the suggestions were FDA approval of medical devices triggering state investments, working with the appropriate entities to bring anchor companies to the region, and looking to Minnesota for best practices. A follow up meeting of the med-tech community is planned to start addressing these issues.

“Baltimore already has many of the pieces in place to support innovation hubs and a thriving medical device community,” said Martha Connolly, director of Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech) Baltimore.

The Mtech-commissioned report, “Encouraging the Development of the Medical Technology Cluster in the Greater Baltimore Region,” was conducted by the [Johns] Hopkins Graduate Student Consulting Club. The study involved extensive interviews with 20 CEOs of medical technology companies, economic development officials and investors in the Greater Baltimore Region.

The study benchmarked Baltimore against successful medical device hubs and identified bottlenecks to growing a vibrant medical device cluster, including a lack of mid- to large-sized medical device companies in Baltimore, perceived lack of experienced, C-level management and follow-on funding after initial seed funding.

The report says that attaining that size, or critical mass of medical device companies, could be achieved through the following steps:

  • Establish public-private innovation centers to attract mid- to large-sized medical device companies.
  • Encourage larger companies not in the medical device space to enter the sector through cost-matching or grant-funded partnerships with small companies or startups.
  • Grow local medical device companies with an increased emphasis on late-stage or emerging company funding to help companies past the seed-funding stage.

The report cites innovation hubs as a critical missing piece to the puzzle. Innovation hubs connect startups to incoming companies while lowering the barriers to entering the region. Through innovation hubs, capital becomes more accessible as venture capital and funding from the innovation center flows to startups. Experienced C-level management talent also becomes available for advising startup company leaders.

The report’s findings were discussed during Baltimore Innovation Week at an event sponsored by the Greater Baltimore Committee (GBC) titled “Building Baltimore’s Medical Device Industry.”

“The Greater Baltimore region is fortunate to have a growing cluster of highly innovative medical technology companies fueled by an entrepreneurial environment,” said GBC President and CEO Donald C. Fry. “The GBC is proud to support them and is confident that this industry will eventually define the region as a medical device center.”

More in-depth recommendations, along with benchmark metrics and additional findings are available in the report, available online.

The study and report were compiled by Johns Hopkins graduate students Sam Hong, Katharina Schmidt, Joshua Wang, Hao Jia, Donna Cichani, Jing You and Belinda Peng.

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