Industry groups in the life sciences, medical and information technology realms have helped lure companies to the region
and foster upstarts.
Funding is almost always an issue, but it’s not the only barrier. Getting medical
devices to market often requires product design, development and marketing resources that aren’t
always apparent to upstarts.
Seeing an unmet need in that development and launch cycle, companies that write
software, prepare regulatory filings and build prototypes quietly formed their own initiative to help
emerging medical-device makers.
The INpact Medical Device Network, which started a year
ago, recently found a permanent meeting place, at the law offices of Bingham McHale, downtown. Now, with
upwards of 50 people gathering each month, INpact plans to hold its first open house Aug. 25.
upstarts “don’t know who’s in the space, who’s a service provider who could help
them,” said INpact President Jon Speer. He founded and heads Martinsville-based Creo Quality, which helps life sciences
companies with product development and project management.
Speer credits as “tremendous assets” industry
groups such as BioCrossroads, the Indiana Health Industry Forum and the Indiana Economic Development Corp.
“There’s been a lot of focus on startups. But sort of the unknown is what are the capabilities
of the service provider network” that could help them, he added.
To be sure, there’s
potential money in it for the 35 companies that belong to INpact. Some have already landed work from
medical-device upstarts who’ve outsourced work to them.
Perhaps the best example of
the group’s potential involves Therametric Technologies, an Indianapolis dental-device company.
In a hurry to build a prototype, the firm contacted local medical-device software firm RND Group. RND is an INpact member,
but it doesn’t have all the expertise Therametric needed, so it steered the company to Priio, a local product development
Eventually, Creo was tapped to help and, later, Online Resources Inc., in Lebanon. With the resources of
various firms, RND finished a PC application for the device.
Therametric got its prototype in just over a month.
“That worked very well for us,” said George Stookey, owner of Therametric. On Aug. 19, the company said
it would build a $4 million headquarters in Noblesville and hire an additional 40 people to make the device. It is said to
detect the formation of tooth cavities years earlier than traditional techniques.
Speer got the idea for INpact
about a year ago, after he was called to assist a company with a project late in the process. The client didn’t necessarily
have the best vendors in place to work on development.
“I thought, there’s got to be a better way
of doing things,” Speer said.
Speer compared notes with Pete Kissinger, founder of
Indianapolis-based analytical-chemistry-device developer Prosolia. Might they be able to build a matrix
of service providers based on their capabilities?
The circle of firms that came together
as a result learned more about one another and their individual capabilities. Their discussions gave
them a better idea of where to steer an upstart medical-device maker needing help.
referrals back and forth. This has helped everybody build business as well,” said Fran Gale, co-founder of Indianapolis-based
Gale Force Software, a service provider and member of INpact.
Gale’s firm worked with a local business
trying to get its medical device to market, helping with quality system and design controls for the firm’s
submission to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Working with upstarts is no panacea,
“Last month’s [INpact group] topic was how you help a startup that
doesn’t have any funding,” Speer said.
Some of the work might have to be done
pro bono, with the hope the service provider gets future business from the upstart as it grows.•