Entrepreneur Tim Wu is developing a biodegradable, drug-eluting stent as part of a novel and new Massachusetts program to jumpstart medical device design.
Research and engineering support for the stent is coming from the Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center, which is co-headed by Stephen McCarthy. He is also a professor of plastics engineering at UMass Lowell in Lowell, MA. The head of clinical trial assistance for the center is Sheila B. Noone at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, MA.
“Since 2001, venture capital funding for medical devices moved downstream, resulting in a lack of development funds for entrepreneurs,” McCarthy told Design News in an interview Wednesday at the massPLASTICS trade show in Fitchburg, MA. McCarthy’s group helps small entrepreneurial firms such as Vasotech qualify for loans from the federal Small Business Technology Transfer program (STTR), which awards $2 billion annually to small high-tech companies.
In February, the UMass Lowell program received a $4 million state grant as part of Gov. Deval Patrick’s $1 billion life sciences initiative. UMass Lowell has already invested $3 million in laboratories and offices for the center.
About 40 faculty members from the school’s plastics engineering program and the UMass Medical School participate in the research. “Medical devices can run the gamut from tongue depressors to artificial hearts,” says McCarthy. “As a result, we need a wide range of experts.”
Specifics of the design and materials formulation are proprietary pending patent approval, says Wu. What’s interesting is Wu is the only employee of his company, Vasotech. Wu has also developed a drug formulation to prevent restenosis, a common cause of stent failure.
Eastern Massachusetts is already a hotbed of medical device startups as a result of spin-offs from university research centers such as the Robert Langer Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Well-funded programs are not eligible for support from the new Lowell center.
While most U.S. manufacturing is mired in a slump, medical device manufacturing is a significant bright spot. The market for medical implants and orthopedic devices, for example, already surpassed the $10 billion market and is expected to zoom to $18 billion in the next few years.