If you’ve been hearing good things about Birmingham’s medtech ecosystem, here’s why.

 In News

Birmingham has a long history of industrial manufacturing. As the legacy steel factories and iron smelters give way to modern facilities, including brownfield reclamation that includes population friendly green spaces, will the next generation in the city’s manufacturing legacy be brought to bear in medtech? Several signs point to yes.

Supporting infrastructure

The University of Alabama Birmingham started life as an extension of the state university’s medical school. Today, the UAB Hospital and UAB Medicine is a major center for clinical research and the home of some of the top medical programs in America with more than 1,100 licensed beds and a nearly equivalent number of physicians. The hospital treats more than 1.2 million patients annually including its outpatient clinics.

The size of those numbers make it inevitable that young medtech companies, driven by clinician innovators and engineers, will emanate from the local ecosystem be they devices, digital health or diagnostics.

Birmingham also enjoys resources like Innovation Depot which provides the space, mentors, legal support and easy access to UAB, St. Vincent’s Birmingham hospital and local Blue Cross Blue Shield representatives for reimbursement guidance.

Access to early stage capital has also improved recently through the $25 million Alabama Futures Fund, the Alabama Capital Network, newly formed Maynard Venture Partners, and investor stalwarts Harbert Management Corporation whose corporate headquarters are in Birmingham.

Southern Research

In 2014, Southern Research (SR), a scientific and engineering research organization, increased its focus on medical devicescombining its research and discovery expertise with entrepreneurs and the robust clinician community. According to the organization, SR made its first seed investment in 2014 and more than a dozen projects have gone on to acquire further funding.

”We believe sound technology and knowledgeable, enthusiastic yet realistic leadership makes for a highly investible young medtech company,” said Stacey Kelpke, Ph.D. and Program Manager, Medical Device Technologies for Southern Research.

SR recently formed a medical device advisory board inclusive of representatives from UAB, St. Vincent’s, Evonik, Steris, BioHorizons, and Butler Snow. While open to other areas, SR focuses on innovation in orthopedics, trauma, rehabilitation, engineering, cardiology and ophthalmology.

“Our goal is to help establish the Birmingham area as a center for medical device business formation by working in a collaborative fashion to capitalize on the region’s dynamic healthcare sector and its deep roots in manufacturing,” Kelpke said. “It seems natural to fuse those two elements together, combining a new strength with a historic one.” Read more from the SR news page.

Evidence

In 2013, Henry Schein completed a 60% equity investment in dental implant manufacturer BioHorizons, a startup that spun out of UAB.

Birmingham-based Aerbetic, makers of a wearable diabetes alert system, was recognized with multiple accolades from CES 2019 including “10 CES gadgets for forward thinking first responders,” and “Seven unforgettable inventions unveiled at this year’s CES” by Smithsonian Magazine.

Circulogene is Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) certified and provides biomarker testing for a broad range of cancers, allowing physicians to match results to specific drugs and clinical trials in a matter of days. Using just a single tube of blood, CIRCULOGENE is able to test for circulating genetic mutations and tumor biomarkers among DNA mutations, RNA fusions, PDL1 Expression and MSI (microsatellite instability). The company recently announced its molecular diagnostic laboratory received College of American Pathologists accreditation.

Telehealth startup Connect Care hired Dr. Rita Goyal as chief medical director in July 2018. “(I) want to bring patients and their doctors back in harmony — in a relationship again, if you will — these days real connections are thriving in video chats and Facetime, so why not medical relationships?” Read more.

How does SEMDA provide value for SR?

“SEMDA keeps us connected to experts that might not be local to Birmingham from regulatory to risk management,” Kelpke said. “One medtech startup needed insurance to satisfy a licensing agreement and had to go to New York to get it. SEMDA helps us identify resources like those more quickly, within the regional ecosystem saving all concerned precious time and resources.”

The SEMDA 2019 Medtech Conference is April 8-10, 2019 in Alpharetta, Georgia. Connect with the entire ecosystem over two concentrated days by registering today.