By From the Lowell Sun
By Michael Lafleur
LOWELL -- The Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center at UMass Lowell has been awarded a $500,000 state grant to help firms begin manufacturing patent ideas.
The money is coming from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative's John Adams Innovation Institute, which in February awarded the center -- a joint effort with the UMass Medical School in Worcester dubbed "M2D2" -- a $150,000 grant. That money helped leverage more than $1.3 million in federal funding to help a handful of the roughly 20 firms that scientists are working with to develop patented prototypes for U.S. Food and Drug Administration review.
UMass Lowell plastics engineering professor Stephen McCarthy, a center co-director, said the $500,000 will help firms mass produce their inventions once they receive FDA approval.
McCarthy said he ultimately would like to be able to incubate as many as 300 companies at a time, spinning off up to a 11 as full-fledged startups each year.
During yesterday's grant presentation ceremony in the trustees room at Cumnock Hall on the UMass Lowell campus, Thomas Chmura, vice president for economic development for the UMass system, said he sees the state funding necessary for that ambitious future as a distinct possibility.
"The project is very well positioned with the new life science initiatives coming through the Legislature," he said. "It'll go on to do bigger and better things."
Pat Larkin, director of the John Adams Innovation Institute, noted that the latest investment into the center by his state-backed agency is "intended to build on what we consider a vibrant, critical industry cluster in this state."
Yesterday's ceremony also featured remarks by UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan; state Sen. Steven Panagiotakos, chairman of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means; and state Rep. Kevin Murphy, chairman of the House Committee on Higher Education.
Among the center's star performers to date have been Kazak, a Woburn firm that has developed a portable "jaws of life"; Worcester company VasoTech, which has developed a "biodegradable, drug-eluting" stent; and Boston-based BosteQ, which has pioneered the Vibrotactile Tilt Feedback Belt for help with balance rehabilitation and elderly fall reduction.
M2D2 received concept funding in 2005 in the form of a $135,000 grant from the UMass president's office.
Center officials hope to build a state-of-the-art home at the UMass Lowell Institute for Plastics Innovation building, located off Aiken Street behind the UMass Lowell student recreation center.
Gov. Deval Patrick has indicated support for the project by including $9 million for it in his higher education bond bill. Meehan and UMass Lowell officials will formally pitch the idea to the state Life Sciences Board at a meeting later this month.