CHAMPION OF INNOVATION: Researcher churns out patents, producing millions in revenue

Keith March March

Dr. Keith March is almost like a medical superhero, churning out patents at warp speed.

His research for the Indiana University School of Medicine has produced more than 50 patents worldwide that have generated tens of millions of dollars in licensing revenue for the university.

March, 51, is a professor at the medical school and established in 2010 the Center for Regenerative Medicine at the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis. In addition, he directs the Indiana Center for Vascular Biology and Medicine and IU’s Vascular and Cardiac Center of Adult Stem Cell Therapy.

The titles are as impressive as his research.

He’s best known for inventing the Closer, a device used to close the puncture wound in an artery following heart catheterization. Since 1999, when it received Food and Drug Administration approval, the device has been used on 8 million patients.

“We thought we might be able to create a company around it, but we were approached by other companies,” March recalled.

IU licensed the technology to California-based Perclose, which suburban Chicago-based Abbott Laboratories scooped up for $650 million.

The device enabled heart catheterization to go from an inpatient procedure to an outpatient one by essentially sewing shut the hole left from a catheter’s entry point—typically at the top of the right leg.

Before March’s invention, doctors would need to push hard on the wound for up to 60 minutes, or until a blood clot formed and sealed the vessel off. March, who performed five to 10 heart catheterizations a day, thought, “There has to be a better way.”

He wrote the patent in 1991, and it was issued in 1994. It took an additional five years to receive FDA approval.

Since 2000, the patent annually has been IU’s top or second-best performer of all the inventions licensed by the university, said March, who receives a portion of the revenue.

Even at a young age, March seemed destined for brilliance. Born in Boston and a prodigy from the start, he skipped high school and moved straight from seventh grade to St. Francis University, enrolling at the impressionable age of 12.

He earned his combined medical and doctoral degrees from Indiana University and IUPUI. He has been on the faculty of the IU School of Medicine since 1990.•

Check out the rest of IBJ's 2015 Innovation Issue.

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