Nebraska: Home to Innovation In Medical Device Manufacturing

medical devices on a white sheetChances are that unless you’re a doctor, nurse, or health-care professional, you can’t rattle off the brand or manufacturer of your favorite medical device like you could for laundry detergent or food products. According to the FDA, medical devices can range from simple wooden tongue depressors to incredibly complex technology, like laser surgical devices or programmable pacemakers with micro-chips. The technical definition is “an instrument, apparatus, implement, machine, contrivance, implant, in vitro reagent, or other similar or related articles, including components and accessories.”

If you’re wondering why you should care about the industry, it’s important to know that the United States is the largest medical device market in the world, with a market size of around $110 billion dollars per year. There are over 6,500 medical device companies in the United States, and American companies are often highly regarded globally for innovation and high technology (which should comfort you during your next visit to the hospital).

While quality in manufacturing is always important, efficiency and safety in medical device manufacturing are absolutely paramount. When products deal with someone’s health and medical well-being, there cannot be recalls, breaking products or flaws in, say, a robot used for surgical procedures.

According to USDM Health Services, medical device manufacturing has been adapting to increased clinical and regulatory standards in order to uphold safety, as well as other industry transitions that have proved challenging for some. Medical equipment and devices are continually becoming more complex, which increases the cost of field service and raises the bar for salaries to hire more qualified engineers. Migration of some diagnostic testing to home tests (as opposed to lab tests) has required manufacturers to spend more capital on laboratory equipment, and there is more competition than ever before.

Despite these challenges, the medical device can be a tremendously exciting one that changes (and saves!) lives every day. Take, for example, Nebraska company Virtual Incision Corporation: The startup, which received an $11.2 million dollar round of capital funding in mid-2015, has invented a small, self-contained surgical device robot that morphs open surgical procedures into minimally invasive operations. “Our unit can be inserted into the abdomen, so it enables the surgeon to have the strength and reach and dexterity to perform the surgery with a robot, using a console at the bedside,” said CEO John Murphy to MedCity News. “The unit moves in a dextrous way similar to the way your arms would move.”

Thus, surgeries like a colon resection become less painful, have less scarring, and result in even higher accuracy. And just this week, the company announced that they’ll move onto the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Innovation Campus, marking the arrival of NIC’s first medical device company. Their new location will enable the company to connect with students, faculty, and the university through internships and student job opportunities. They’ll also work with the Nebraska Innovation Studio, which brings together interdisciplinary teams and equipment for customized manufacturing projects.

The special circumstances facing medical device manufacturers will bring a unique set of learning experiences to the UNL campus, as well as a pioneering and life-saving device to the medical market. If you’d like to learn more about the challenges and benefits of manufacturing medical devices, leave a comment in the section below, anytime, and we’d be happy to answer your questions.

Congratulations to the Virtual Incision Corporation on their new move, and we’ll look forward to seeing how a Nebraska startup can change the world!

photo credit: someday this will all be replaced by an iPhone via photopin (license)