The Global Cardiovascular Innovation Center is housed at the Cleveland Clinic campus, but the organization works with universities, technology companies and economic development officials, Gene Jung told attendees at the Plastics in Medical Devices conference. A $60 million Ohio Third Frontier grant kicked it off in 2007.
Jung said the GCIC has helped 18 new businesses start in Ohio, which have attracted $700 million of follow-on financing. Currently, 28 startups are housed in a business incubator the center runs.
“Our role is really more of a match-making role. We facilitate innovation,” said Jung, who is the group’s director of product development.
Plastics in Medical Devices attendees got a lot of exposure to the Cleveland Clinic during the event, May 6-7. They toured the laboratories at the clinic’s Medical Device Solutions, and also heard a presentation by Shengqiang Gao, its polymer specialist, who is senior principal research engineer.
The Cleveland Clinic, a nationwide leader in heart care, is a logical place to house the Global Cardiovascular Innovation Center, said Jung, that group’s director of product development. He said the center defines “cardiovascular” broadly, to include the heart and circulatory system, stroke and other areas.
GCIC’s goal is commercializing medical products and fostering economic development. Jung said much of his job is to link together business people with technical experts already in Ohio. The new Global Center for Health Innovation, located next to the Cleveland Convention Center, also highlights local companies with expertise in medical technology.
Jung said health care is undergoing big changes, from treating single episodes of illness to prevention, or what he called a “care continuum model.” That means products now have market potential if they can reduce overall health care costs and fill an unmet need, he said.
Jung said heart failure is ripe for innovations, “a large unmet condition and also an under-served area.
“Anything that is a less invasive approach to deal with heart failure is something we like,” he said. “What we look for is devices that really touch pain points in medicine. Is there an unmet need? What is the potential? Is it going to be broadly adopted and treat a large population? Will it take cost out of the system?”
For the plastics industry, minimally invasive products could be implants and devices for delivering drugs directly to the heart.
“We really look to polymers to advance medical devices,” Jung told conference attendees. “It’s really the breakthroughs in material science from companies like yours that enable us to develop better devices, minimally invasive devices. The movement is really towards less-expensive care models. And less expensive means less, shorter recovery times. Lower mortality rates.”
Jung gave several case studies on emerging technologies:
• An anti-fouling composite polymer, which reduces the chance for bacterial infection. “Infection remains a very unmet medical need,” he said. GCIC helped the physician/inventor license the technology, and a venture capital-backed company is now developing it.
• A neuro-stimulation catheter to deliver intravascular drugs to heart patients.
• A very small circulatory heart pump, called a ventricular assist device. In the future, surgeons will place these devices using minimally invasive operations, instead of open-heart surgery. “We’re looking at things that can be inserted, expanded and delivered, and can remain for a long period of time,” Jung said. He said “there’s a number of cable-and-polymer solutions” coming.
• A single-use catheter/filter to capture embolic debris.
At the Cleveland Clinic Foundation’s Medical Device Solutions, Gao said more than 20 engineers work directly with surgeons, who sometimes call them for help with specific surgeries, or take notes in the operating room. The lab builds prototypes and can do testing on animals.
He discussed two projects:
• A customized, patient-specific airway stent made of silicone. The engineers use data from a CT scan and make the mold using 3-D printing, then use molding to make the individual stent. “It fits the airway much better than a standard tubular stent,” Gao said. “We’re using more and more 3-D printing” for protoypes.
• A cardioscope — basically a catheter bearing a camera and light, that can show live images of a heart valve. The scope must be bendable, with “bi-directional steering,” yet hold up in a demanding environment. Medical Device Solutions made about half a dozen of the cardioscopes so far, testing them on calves.