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The Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center (M2D2)—a partnership between the University of Massachusetts Lowell (www.uml.edu) and the University of Massachusetts Worcester (www.umassmed.edu)—has received a $4 million contribution from the state government of Massachusetts to expand its facility. The goal of M2D2 is to help local medical device companies attract the venture capital needed to deliver new products to market.
Companies—particularly start-ups—often find themselves in a catch-22 when they reach the regulatory approval stage with a new medical device, observes Stephen McCarthy, professor of plastics engineering at UMass Lowell and M2D2 codirector. The companies need investment money to shepherd their concepts through the approval process, but investors hesitate to get involved until a concept is approved. “We call this period the valley of death,” McCarthy says. “The innovations and venture capital are there, but it can be difficult to bring them together.”
M2D2 offers companies various pathways out of the valley of death. Experienced innovators help companies apply for National Institutes of Health and other grants. McCarthy, for instance, holds nine patents and is the cofounder of a nanotechnology-based company. Once funding is in place, M2D2 provides companies with laboratory space for research and building prototypes with the final goal of drawing in venture capital. “Basically, we tell companies how to obtain grant money and then we tell them how to spend it,” McCarthy says.
A new design for orthopedic bone screws and a drug-eluting stent are among the products that have been developed at M2D2 so far. Many more products are expected once the facility expansion is completed. UMass Lowell has already spent about $3 million to convert a 30,000-sq ft campus building into laboratories and equipment for building medical devices. The state’s contribution, along with additional private and federal funding, could allow the new facility to open by the end of the year, McCarthy notes.
The state’s investment is intended to serve as a model for the kinds of contributions that would be made under a proposed $1 billion life-science initiative designed to improve Massachusetts’s economy through growth in the medical sector. Massachusetts has had success in the medical device area recently, including 1378 regulatory approvals between 2002 and 2006, the second most of any state. Nevertheless, Governor Deval Patrick cited stiff competition from California, Minnesota, North Carolina, and China as a driving force behind the state’s contribution to M2D2.