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U of Minnesota innovation program sees its first successful tech commercialization


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: June 14th, 2017

The Innovation Fellows Program, an immersive tech transfer initiative at the University of Minnesota Medical Devices Center (MDC), has seen its first successful transition from the lab to the marketplace.

The product is a unique, non-invasive method to safely and securely close a fractured jaw to help it heal. Developed by MDC researcher Alan Johnson, the technology recently received FDA approval and is now licensed to St. Paul-based Summit Medical. The company will market Johnson’s innovation for use in hospitals, surgeons’ offices and clinics across the U.S.

The conventional method of closing a fractured jaw with metal wiring is uncomfortable for patients, can lead to lip and gum irritation, and sometimes contributes to gingivitis. The sharp-tipped wires are also hazardous to surgeons and can transmit disease. By contrast, Johnson’s invention consists of smooth, blunt-tipped sutures that allow for a faster, more comfortable and more hygienic surgery, cutting overall costs and improving safety for both patients and doctors.

“When Alan started to explore the original idea, the potential medical impact was apparent to me based on my many past dental-related R&D projects,” says Arthur Erdman, director of the MDC. “The concept was simple and elegant, but he still faced significant engineering and manufacturing challenges.”

To address these obstacles, the Innovation Fellows Program helped Johnson test his prototypes and gain feedback from the U of M research community as well as medical device professionals.

“It seemed that each time I looked at the mechanical fabrication lab across from my office, I would see Alan busy making improvements on earlier prototypes,” Erdman comments. “The numerous design-build-test cycles brought the project to a point where Summit Medical could evaluate the finished proof-of-concept.”

Around this time, Johnson worked closely with the university’s Office of Technology Commercialization to patent the invention and negotiate the licensing deal with Summit Medical.

“I hope that it’s adopted in a widespread fashion,” Johnson says of the technology, “and that patients and physicians feel that it’s better than what we’ve had before.”

Source: Inquiry

Posted under: Tech Transfer e-News

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