The MaineHealth Innovation Centre forms part of the larger healthcare network MaineHealth. Established in 2020 as both an R&D vertical as well as a Venture Capital program, the Innovation Centre attempts to act as an incubator for disruptive solutions that could empower the medical field and raise the standard of living for patients and professionals alike. The potential recipients are founded by members of MaineHealth with a diverse and multidisciplinary board of reviewers drawn from MaineHealth and its partners being charged with allocating the funds to the award winners. The main criteria on which innovations are judged are the potential they have towards unmet gaps in the healthcare industry and the scalability of these solutions.
The MaineHealth Innovation Fund, as the main mechanism of the Innovation Centre, operates on two main levels:
Susan Ahern, MaineHealth’s vice president of innovation, elaborated that “The Bonfire Fund is far more than just a monetary investment in our innovators. Fund recipients benefit from connections to experts both within MaineHealth and in the larger community that can help them overcome technical or business challenges.”
The robotic clot retriever, created in a joint project between neurosurgeons Robert Ecker and Jeffrey Florman as well as Mohshen Shahinpoor from the university of Maine, was intended to augment the way that neurosurgeons remove blood clots from brains. Using ionic polymer metal composites, “smart materials” that function similar to human muscles, the team created a steerable retriever that can allow surgeons to use a full range of motion and help them retrieve the clots more accurately.
A patent was initially filed with MaineHealth in 2016 with the seed stage being funded by medical device company Medtronic with the aim of creating an early prototype. In late 2020, the team managed to acquire funding from the MaineHealth Innovation Ignite Fund to make progress in the project and specifically in the refining of the prototype. Now, the team is in the process of creating a medical-grade prototype after partnering with Looma Design, a life sciences development company, and a soft robotics engineer from Worchester Polytechnic Institute.
Perhaps inspired by the desperate situation brought to light by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the collapsible enclosures are portable isolation tents that can fit over patient’s beds and contain infectious bacteria or viruses. Containing the spread of germs has been a vital aspect of the pandemic and would definitely form a cornerstone for any meaningful response towards any future one.
This invention was conceptualized by Liz Hamilton and Katie Main, two emergency medicine chief residents at the Maine Medical Center. Originally inspired due to the need for a method to isolate COVID patients waiting to be admitted to a negative pressure room as well as the two’s experience as campers, the pair came into contact with the firms Thermoformed Plastics of New England and Baker Co. via MaineHealth Innovation’s team which let them move forward in terms of R&D.
Early 2021 would see the team managing to secure funding from the Ignite Fund in order to be able to scale in terms of production and marketing. The team is currently focusing on acquiring regulatory approval so that the device can be used in medical and clinical settings.
On the main goals and vision of the center, MainHealth’s Chief Academic Officer and interim Chief Medical Officer Doug Sawyer stated that “Innovation is one of MaineHealth’s six values and an integral part of its mission of caring for our community, educating tomorrow’s caregivers and researching new ways to provide care. These funds are one way we help foster a culture of innovation throughout our organization in keeping with our vision of working together so our communities are the healthiest in America.”
MaineHealth Innovation’s current round of applications for 2020 is currently ongoing.
Story sourced from MaineBiz
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