William Lau knows the fear that shoots through every healthcare worker’s body when they stick themselves with a needle.
Lau, a physician at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, was fastening a central venous catheter to a high-risk patient when he felt the needle go into his hand. What came next was both nerve-wracking and inspirational.
Forced to undergo a series of tests for blood-borne diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C and a course of prophylactic medications, which made him sick both with worry and nausea, Lau decided that there had to be a better way to prevent needlestick injuries.
Lau’s handheld safety suturing device was the brainchild of that anxiety. It’s a small device resembling a staple remover, designed to eliminate the risk of needlesticks. Lau hopes to license his technology once he raises the funds to build a prototype.
Yesterday, along with about ten other inventors armed with similar stories of inspiration, Lau took a step towards that goal, presenting his idea at a company showcase and open house at UMass-Lowell’s Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center (M2D2). A hybrid investors conference/showcase, the open house was M2D2’s second such event in the past eight months.
The center bills itself as a “lifeline for the state’s smaller medical device companies,” aiming to help companies develop technology with the help of the Massachusetts state university campuses in Lowell and Worcester.
Besides providing incubator space and prototype development, the center helps companies tailor their investor pitch and secure grant funding. To date, M2D2 has helped five firms raise a collective $2 million in SBIR/STTR grants from the National Institutes of Health and doled out about $500,000 of its own cash in seed rounds.
Like Lau’s small, inexpensive device, many of the products on display had a hint of austerity, as inventors touted their products’ abilities not only to help save lives, but also help save money.
M2D2 co-director Stephen McCarthy told MassDevice this was no accident. The center tries to teach companies about the need to highlight their products’ competitive advantage over current offerings, including the ability to save hospitals and their stretched budgets some money.
“That would be one of the metrics we stress,” McCarthy told us. “They need to convey how their products eliminate some sort of pain, or provide some advantage to the current procedures being performed. One of those factors would be cost savings.”
McCarthy explained that all the companies applying to M2D2 are given a rigorous vetting procedure, from the clinical applications of their technology to an assessment of the business plan and financial viability.
In fact, almost all of the presentations stressed how the product could offer a cost savings advantage to an existing procedure. Evidently the pupils are absorbing the message:
M3 Medical Inc.: A handheld video scope, endoscopic and otoscopic camera.
Aura Medsystems Inc.: Photochemical bonding used for tissue repair with multiple applications, including skin repair, ophthalmology and orthopedics, being developed out of the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital.
ACCU-TATT: A sterile/disposable tattoo device used for patients undergoing chemotherapy.
MC10 Inc.: Flexible sensor sheets for heart monitoring and other rapid diagnostics.
Endomagnetics Inc.: A self-assembling magnetic cholecystectomy (gallstone removal) system being developed out of Brigham & Women’s Hospital.
I.V. Oxygen: Oxygen delivered through an I.V., using injectable microbubbles for patients with dangerously low oxygen levels, being developed out of Children’s Hospital Boston.
Bryan Medical Inc.: A moisture shield used to protect catheter-based injections.
Automated Medical Instruments Inc.: Developing the AutoBlator, a minimally invasive product for atrial fibrillation.
Actisite Pharmaceuticals Inc.: Drug delivery system to treat periodontal disease.