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Baltimore, MD Biotech Industry Builds Medical Device Cluster

Learn how a strong foundation of health institutions and organizations like Johns Hopkins University has made Greater Baltimore a leading biotechnology region.

By John Fuller on November 8, 2016

Baltimore MD
Baltimore / Courtesy of Johns Hopkins Hospital

Greater Baltimore’s reputation as a globally recognized leader in biotechnology has helped the region develop a growing medical devices cluster.

A study released in fall 2015 by the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech) noted that the region has many of the components in place to support more growth in the sector.

“This study is important because we believe Baltimore is well-positioned to be a leading center for medical devices,” says  Martha Connolly, director of Mtech Baltimore. Mtech is a unit of the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland.

With expertise from the University System of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University in engineering and medicine, a highly educated workforce, proximity to key federal agencies like the National Institutes of Health, access to venture and other funding, the region is positioned to expand its medical device footprint.

Building Strength in Devices

A slew of startups is attracting venture investment and joining established device makers with operations in the region, including BD Diagnostics.

“Greater Baltimore has the essential ingredients of a major biohealth industry cluster, ” says Shannon Landwehr, President and CEO of the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore. “We are focused on marshaling the resources to take us to the next step of national leadership.”

One of those emerging leaders in the devices sector is Vasoptic, started in Columbia and now based in Baltimore. The company develops imaging technology that can be used to quickly and inexpensively assess a patient’s retinas.

The technology can help doctors detect potential eye issues, such as diabetic retinopathy, a condition commonly associated with diabetes that can lead to severe vision impairment and blindness if untreated. Vasoptic is focused on making its technology available for primary care physicians to use during routine eye exams for patients with diabetes.

The  company, founded in 2012, relocated to Baltimore’s Locust Point neighborhood, where it has closer access to research resources, such as Johns Hopkins  University and the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

Sisu Global Health in Baltimore designed Hemafuse, a hand-held, mechanical device for intraoperative autotransfusion of blood collected from an internal hemorrhage, meant to replace or augment donor blood in emergency situations.

GraftWorx, based in Harford County, has developed a vascular prosthetic incorporating a sensor that can alert physicians when blood flow is blocked to dangerous levels in patients with peripheral artery disease.

David J. Kuraguntla, founder and CEO of GraftWorx, created his business while living in a Baltimore suburb and found great financial and technical support from agencies seeking to help young entrepreneurs.

One agency that helped Kuraguntla was the Maryland Technology Development Corp. (TEDCO), a go-to source for entrepreneurial support and guidance.

“I believe there are still many great untapped opportunities for biotech companies in Baltimore,” Kuraguntla says.

Eye on Health Technology

The region includes a number of incubators and technology parks that support innovation.

The Science + Technology Park at Johns Hopkins houses a number of innovative biotech companies. One tenant, Iatrica, develops targeted anti-body drug conjugates for prevention or treatment of cancer and infectious disorders. The company grew out of technology developed at Johns Hopkins.

The University of Maryland BioPark offers laboratory and office space for early-stage to mature biotech companies. When fully developed, the 12-acre complex will boast 1.8 million square feet of lab and office space in 12 buildings, plus garage parking and landscaped parks.

Tenants of the BioPark include Noxilizer, which is developing sterilization equipment for hospitals, surgery centers and life sciences manufacturers. Another BioPark company, eNeura, is developing a portable, non-invasive magnetic stimulation product to treat migraines.

“Our business premise is to support collaboration,” says Jane Shaab, executive director of the BioPark. “Through facilities like the BioPark, as well as the university and hospitals in the region, Greater Baltimore is gaining a strong infrastructure in the biotech sector.”

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