With programs such as the Ohio Third Frontier, an initiative that provides funding for technologies that have the potential to result in economic growth, Ohio is aggressively trying to attract medtech companies to the state. Nearly 55% of the state’s 1628 bioscience firms are medical device manufacturers, medical labs, or diagnostics imaging centers, according to data in nonprofit group BioOhio’s 2009 bioscience growth report. In 2008, these combined subsectors employed 24,665 people.
Nearly 100% of the recent growth in the state has occurred in Columbus, the second-fastest-growing major metropolitan area in the Midwest, says Matt McCollister, vice president of economic development at the Columbus Chamber. And with 27 colleges and universities (second only to Boston) that produce top engineering talent in the region, Columbus prides itself on its fresh talent and established companies such as Battelle.
One of the keys to success in this region has been the collaboration between BioOhio, TechColumbus, and the surrounding medical device companies and universities. TechColumbus is a nonprofit incubator that funds nearly 500 entrepreneurs each year, not limited to the device industry, according to William Indest, vice president of venture development at TechColumbus. The group’s TechStart program, which is mostly funded by the Ohio Third Frontier, provides services to help graduates, researchers, start-ups, and even established technology companies, provided that they want to set up a tech-based company within the 15 counties of central Ohio.
Start-up company EXCMR set up shop in TechColumbus’s incubator offices last year. In July it received $2.8 million in grants to further test and refine its cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology. Half of the funding came from the Ohio Third Frontier and was matched by cost share partners. EXCMR’s core technology is a hydraulic treadmill and cardiac data collection system. The idea of Eric Foster, COO of EXCMR, and his team was to conduct MRI immediately following a stress test, which is conducted on a treadmill.
“Imaging needs to take place 60–90 seconds following peak stress,” says Subha Raman, MD, chief medical officer of EXCMR. “Any delay after peak stress reduces the chances of spotting an abnormality.”
To place an MRI machine in the same room as a treadmill, the designers had to remove all of the treadmill’s aluminum components, which meant installing a hydraulic motor. The company is testing its core technology in clinical settings, and the new funding takes it one step closer to commercial launch.
In June, Ohio Third Frontier’s commission approved five additional projects for $4.9 million in funding. The approved funding will go to projects that include $1 million for regenerating nerve growth in spinal cord injuries and $986,373 for a method of detecting congenital right-to-left holes in the heart.