Biosciences are critical to Iowa’s economy and are vital to the state’s future economic development and growth. In the TEConomy report released by the Governor, four bioscience platforms were identified where Iowa has the greatest likelihood of achieving a differentiated leadership position to grow and diversify the state’s economy: biobased chemicals, precision and digital agriculture, vaccines and immunotherapeutics, and medical devices.
The University of Iowa (SUI) Medical Device Platform Development
The Medical device platform development is core to the University of Iowa area economic development success. Per the TEConomy summary, “In Iowa, technology development and startup activity is occurring around the convergence of University of Iowa biomedical research specialties and the University Hospitals’ clinical practice.”
In order to execute the recommendations identified in the report the SUI is investing in a variety of initiatives that will support and nurture faculty discoveries in an attempt to address unmet needs in healthcare. The SUI has focused four key areas of development in fiscal 2020, thanks to the State’s allotment for the medical device platform:
Protostudios is a state-of-the-art rapid-prototyping facility currently located in the MERGE co-working labs in downtown Iowa City. Working with faculty, staff, students and the community, Protostudios, contracts with innovators to develop fully functional prototypes, including medical devices as well as printing of human organs and anatomical models to support complex surgical prep and training
The presence of Protostudios has dramatically changed the pathway for surgeons and others medical device inventors at the University. The proximity to the equipment, competitive pricing and turnaround times have eliminated the need to send prototyping jobs out of state thereby increasing efficiency and accelerating all aspects of early device development.
The presence of Protostudios has allowed the SUI to create a one of a kind program –MADE, a student managed manufacturing and e-commerce initiative whose mission is to encourage and facilitate innovative, needs based products reaching the market with the twin goals of solving problems and enhancing economic development as an extension of research and scholarship. The MADE program is almost entirely student run, allowing real world experience for the next generation of entrepreneurs while offering UI faculty and staff a unique outlet encouraging the development of simple solutions to everyday tasks in surgery or clinical practice.
In an exhaustive needs-based discovery exercise across campus, the number one unmet need for entrepreneurs and innovators was the need for a one stop shop capable of coordinating and connecting the right resources at the right moment in development. In an environment as diverse and multifaceted as the SUI, a concierge service capable of connecting innovators to technical expertise, regulatory and legal support, industry talent and capital, and like-minded individuals on campus in order to assemble collaborative teams is essential.
Expert Advisory Council
The SUI is assembling a world class group of medical device executive advisors and venture capitalists to vet, mentor, support and in some cases invest in our entrepreneurs. Core to success is creating a vehicle for industry execs meet with our entrepreneurs and researchers, and to engage their wisdom and experience consistently over an extended period of time. This community of experts is fundamental to creating an Iowa medical device industry.