When medtech pioneer Alfred Mann died in February 2016, he left behind a rich legacy of pure innovation and patient impact spanning the breadth of healthcare, from cardiology to hearing impairment, blindness and diabetes that will improve the lives of patients for decades to come.
Extending and advancing that legacy is now the mission of Dr. Robert Greenberg, who took over as the foundation’s chairman in July. Speaking ahead of his appearance next week at MassDevice.com’s DeviceTalks West event in Costa Mesa, Greenberg told us that he’s looking to expand the foundation’s reach into the early-stage medical device ecosystem.
“One of the recognitions that Al Mann had was that there are tons of physicians, and specifically academic physicians, that have great ideas, therapies that could help patients, but are not so well placed to get those products developed and into companies that could commercialize and make those therapies available to patients. That was the philosophy behind [the foundation],” Greenberg told us.
That insight led to numerous successful spinouts that became some of the biggest names in medtech. The cochlear implant technology developed at the Alfred Mann Foundation became Advanced Bionics and eventually the cornerstone of the neuromodulation business at Boston Scientific (NYSE:BSX).
More recently the organization spun out Axonics Modulation Technologies (NSDQ:AXNX), which raised $138 million this month in an initial public offering for its r-SNM sacral neuromodulation system.
The foundation was also behind a glucose sensor and insulin pump business that’s now Medtronic (NYSE:MDT) MiniMed. And the Alfred Mann Foundation also spun out Second Sight Medical (NSDQ:EYES) and its “bionic eye” technology, helmed by Greenberg, that’s in clinical trials for its Orion cortical implant technology – a potentially revolutionary device that could bring eyesight to the blind.
All of those spinouts originated within the foundation. Greenberg said he’s turning the focus outward, seeking very early-stage enterprises that could use a leg up from the AMF.
“One of the reasons why so many of our startups have been successful is that they’ve been able to leverage the sort of back-end infrastructure, where the foundation has kind of acted as an incubator. We’re now opening up that incubator to allow other companies to rent space, rent time on our equipment, and even get access to our team as well. That’s a fairly new model for us, where we’re trying to contribute to the local infrastructure more,” he told us.
“That’s one of the things that’s the hardest for me, is that there are tons of amazing, great ideas and projects that can have a significant impact on people’s health,” Greenberg said. “Trying to focus down on the ones that are going to have the highest impact and make the best use of all these limited resources is really the bigger challenge.”