Regional Focus on the Mid-Atlantic: Still Making History in Medtech

Stephen Levy

The Mid-Atlantic states, generally accepted to include Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia, have a history of medical device innovation that dates back to the colonies.

George Washington’s false teeth—which were actually made of hippo ivory and various metals, not wood, and were considered quite state-of-the-art at the time—were made by a dentist in New York.

Benjamin Franklin was a champion of smallpox inoculation, took a leading role in founding Pennsylvania Hospital (the first such institution in the British North American colonies), and invented medical devices such as bifocal glasses and a flexible urinary catheter.

When it comes to medical device development, the region is still one of the strongest in the nation. Taken together, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland have nearly 204,000 jobs that are linked to the device industry—directly or indirectly. By comparison, California has roughly 295,300 jobs directly or indirectly linked to the medical device industry, while Minnesota has 83,100.

When it comes to jobs directly linked to the device industry, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania each have nearly as many jobs as the state of Massachusetts.

While the medical device industry in the Mid-Atlantic is strong, with huge medical device players such as J&J and GE based in the region, its growth pales in comparison to that of biotech. The MoneyTree Report that Thomson Reuters compiles for PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and the National Venture Capital Association tell the tale. Numbers for only the seven Mid-Atlantic states were compiled. In 2003, new investment dollars in PwC’s biotechnology category totaled $686 million. At $222 million, the medical technology and equipment sector garnered just 32% of that figure. By 2013, biotech investments were up to $795 million, while medtech investments had declined to $161 million.

Still, many states offer programs to foster medical device development. For example, Maryland’s BioMaryland 2020 program and New York’s Buffalo Billion initiative help medical device entrepreneurs bring their ideas to fruition. Business incubators have sprouted up in nearly every major city to assist start-ups. Major medical device companies in the region have research facilities, and many of the nation’s top universities and research hospitals, such as Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, are located in the region.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded more than $960 million in grants across the Mid-Atlantic region in the 2014 fiscal year. Broken down by state, New York came in third in the nation with $412 million, trailing California and Massachusetts. Pennsylvania was fourth with $236 million, and Maryland, ranked number eight, received $171 million. New Jersey, Virginia, and the District of Columbia were each granted about $44 million.

A partnership among the state of Delaware, the University of Delaware, and the private sector, Delaware Technology Park (Newark) is a 40-acre research center that supports science-based growth. It is home to the Delaware Biotechnology Institute and the Fraunhofer Center for Molecular Biotechnology. Also in Newark is Delaware Bio, the state’s biosciences trade organization.

The BioMaryland Center is the hub of the state’s BioMaryland 2020 Initiative. This $1.3 billion investment in Maryland’s life sciences industry is the largest per capita investment made by any state in the nation. The Maryland Biotechnology Center (Baltimore and Rockville), a key provision of BioMaryland 2020, serves as a catalyst and central resource, while offering programs that include business and workforce training and development. Through its grant programs, the center invests in talent, infrastructure, and future commercialization opportunities.

At the heart of Maryland’s medical device and broader biotech industries is the state’s network of institutes and universities, including the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the University of Maryland. And it doesn’t hurt that FDA headquarters are in Rockville.

The state legislature created the Maryland Technology Development Corp. in 1998 to facilitate the transfer and commercialization of medical-related technology from Maryland’s research universities and federal labs to the marketplace. The corporation also assists in the creation and growth of technology-based businesses.

New Jersey
New Jersey’s Economic Development Authority has established three Innovation Zones, areas within the cities of Camden, Newark, and the Greater New Brunswick area that encompass state universities, research institutions, and related businesses. These zones are designed to encourage the rapid transfer of discoveries from the laboratory to the marketplace. Enhanced financial incentives, including loans up to $5 million, are available to eligible technology and life science businesses locating in these zones.

Camden’s Innovation Zone includes the Waterfront Technology Center, a 100,000-sq-ft facility designed to accommodate established businesses and startups in the biosciences and other high-tech and life sciences fields. It includes the Coriell Institute for Medical Research, an independent, not-for-profit research organization dedicated to understanding human genetic diseases.

Located in the Bioscience Cluster between Rutgers and Princeton Universities is the Technology Centre of New Jersey (North Brunswick). With approximately 325,000 sq-ft of laboratory, production, and office space and more than $100 million invested in facilities and improvements, the Tech Centre was designed to meet the needs of research and development companies in the bioscience and other high-tech industries and to accommodate state-of-the-art cleanrooms and wet labs.

Northeastern Pennsylvania will be the next medtech hub, if Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP; Bethlehem) has anything to say about it. A public/private partnership, BFTP links early-stage technology firms and established manufacturers with funding, people, technology, universities, and other resources.

Pennsylvania State University’s Small Business Development Center in State College offers consulting services and seminars for small businesses and those who are thinking of starting a business in Centre or Mifflin Counties.

Pennsylvania’s medtech advocacy group, Pennsylvania Bio (Wayne), offers networking services and a voice in public policy, both in the state capital and in Washington.

Among its other programs, the state’s Department of Community and Economic Development’s Innovate in PA program is designed to accelerate the creation of high-wage jobs in technology-based companies that are developing life-saving therapeutics and medical devices.

New York
In his most recent State of the State address, Governor Andrew Cuomo pledged more than $100 million for the New York Genomic Medicine Network, a partnership between the New York Genome Center and the University of Buffalo’s Center for Computational Research. His goal is to advance biomedical research and grow the genomic medicine industry in the region. The network will link the New York City university medical community with the emerging Buffalo medical technology corridor.

Cuomo’s so-called “Buffalo Billion” economic development initiative includes grants for the Buffalo Medical Innovation and Commercialization Hub on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. This initiative will create a facility that supports drug screening, pharmaceutical development, bioinformatics research and development, and other technologies.

In January, the New York City Economic Development Corp. announced Pilot Health Tech NYC, which provides $1 million in funding to 10 or more innovative pilot projects in New York City. The program partners early-stage health and healthcare technology companies with key NYC healthcare service organizations and stakeholders. Each pilot project will address a defined need of the healthcare industry and will test a technology prototype for a period of approximately four to nine months.

NYC Tech Connect and the Partnership for New York City Fund are both investing in the city’s life science industry. Healthcare-focused venture firms such as Manhattan’s Aperture Venture Partners are investing in local startups when possible. Supporters of local medtech start-ups include the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the New York Digital Health Accelerator. And the region’s biotech industry is also growing, thanks to investments from Celgene and Eli Lilly.

With nine major academic medical centers, New York City says it has the world’s largest concentration of academic institutions, including Columbia University, Weill Cornell Medical College, NYU, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and the Rockefeller University. The city also houses its own bioscience cluster, boasting more than 120 companies. According to a Jones Lang LaSalle report, NYC has the fourth-largest number of medical device employees of all cities in the country.

Richmond’s Virginia BioTechnology Research Park is home to more than 60 life science companies, research institutes, and state and federal labs. It employs more than 2700 scientists, engineers, and researchers and has an incubator facility known as the Virginia Biotechnology Center. The park is located next to the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center, which is said to be the fourth-largest university-affiliated U.S. teaching hospital.

The Virginia Department of Business Assistance and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership offer assistance to startup and established firms seeking to locate within the state. Major companies with facilities in Virginia include Merck, Pfizer, and Abbott.

Stephen Levy