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Feature Article

i6 Challenge Investment Supports Medical Device Innovation
Center in Atlanta

by Wayne Hodges, Executive Director, Global Center for Medical Innovation

GCMI
August 2, 2011 - U.S. Assistant Secretary John Fernandez joined local leaders, in Atlanta, GA during the 'wall breaking' to formally kick-off construction/renovation for the Global Center for Medical Innovation, the Southeast region's first comprehensive medical device innovation center and a 2010 EDA i6 Challenge awardee.

The worldwide market for medical devices is expected to top $300 billion this year and to continue growing, fueled by demands from a growing population and a U.S. Baby Boomer generation that expects a high level of healthcare services. That's an economic development opportunity that many states and regions would like to tap.

In Atlanta, a partnership of research and medical institutions, supported by the public-private Georgia Research Alliance (GRA), has formed the Global Center for Medical Innovation (GCMI) to do just that. With assistance from the Economic Development Administration, GCMI recently began construction of what will be the Southeasts first comprehensive medical device innovation center. The goal of the nonprofit center is to accelerate the development and commercialization of next-generation medical devices and technology.

Launched through a partnership of four leading research and healthcare organizations the Georgia Institute of Technology, Saint Josephs Translational Research Institute, Piedmont Hospital and the GRA the new center will fill a medical device commercialization gap for the region. GCMI will help new product teams shorten time to market, enhance their product development, achieve significant cost savings and create new jobs and economic activity.

The center includes both a prototyping design and development facility and an initiative to create new approaches for identifying, developing and moving technology from university laboratories, hospitals, companies and other organizations into the marketplace. An i6 Challenge Grant is helping GCMI bring together the key elements needed for developing medical devices: universities, research centers and clinicians; established drug and device companies; investors and early-stage companies.

The new center will be housed in a 12,000-square-foot facility being renovated in midtown Atlanta near the Georgia Tech campus. The facility, expected to open by the end of 2011, will house design, material and mechanical engineering resources, along with state-of-the-art rapid and functional prototyping equipment capable of producing a wide range of medical devices for development, pre-clinical testing and clinical studies.

As its name suggests, international partnerships will be a critical piece of GCMIs strategy. Already, it has begun developing a medical device partnership with the National University of Ireland in Galway through Georgia Tech, which has relationships and a facility there. International university and clinical partnerships will facilitate the development and launch of groundbreaking medical devices evaluated in different regulatory environments and produced with lower development costs.

Atlanta-based companies such as CardioMEMS, MedShape Solutions and Zenda Technologies have shown that the areas strong engineering and medical institutions can launch and build medical device companies. And a new survey of just one partner, Georgia Tech, shows more than two-dozen medical device technologies in the research and development pipeline.

GCMI will help Atlanta, Georgia and the Southeast expand what is already an important industry, building on the strengths of Georgia Tech, Emory and other research organizations; the real-world medical expertise and experience of area hospitals and clinicians; and the entrepreneurial know-how of investors and early-stage companies. Access to GCMI will allow Atlanta, Georgia and the Southeast to take better advantage of its resources to produce more investment and create more technology jobs for the area.