A University of Minnesota spinout company is working to develop an artificial liver that could dramatically reduce the number of patients who die waiting for a liver transplant. Another Minnesota company has developed a novel means of serving primary care to low-income seniors, keeping them healthy while saving them money.
These are just two examples of the innovations emerging from Minnesota’s bioscience industry, which, with a nearly $23 billion annual impact and 167,000 direct and indirect jobs, is one of the largest in the country. In fact, Minnesota ranks first among states for medical device patents per capita and second for bioscience-related patents.
Center of Innovation
Thanks to a highly specialized workforce as well as a robust network of resources and business incentives, Minnesota has become a global center of innovation in medical device production, pharma/biologics, bioagriculture, bioinformatics and health IT.
Health IT firm Zipnosis developed a software platform that enables virtual medical office visits. The Minneapolis-based company is a leader in virtual care, and its software will allow providers to remotely triage and treat patients.
“There's a lot of innovation coming out of Minnesota right now on a number of fronts, particularly around health care IT and what we're doing — helping take cost out of the system, strengthening care and really improving the way health care is delivered,” says Eric Bosler, Zipnosis CFO. “Technological advancements — such as mobile phones and what those are capable of delivering — are creating a profoundly different experience for health care and how health care is delivered. There’s a new generation of innovations that are taking advantage of that technology to deliver care in new ways. Minnesota is certainly leading the charge in that area.”
Support for Startups
Bosler says Minnesota’s network of industry resources, such as the Medical Alley Association, have made the state a breeding ground for life sciences startups like his.
“There are supportive policy makers in Minnesota and a deep professional community that's well-organized. Groups like Medical Alley bring together professionals from across the various sectors of life sciences. It’s a well established group that allows both large companies and startups to participate and be nurtured,” he says.
Many public and private resources exist to help move ideas to commercialization. State programs like the Minnesota Investment Fund help large projects close financing gaps. The Regenerative Medicine Minnesota grant helps regenerative medicine companies and researchers advance their technologies, and organizations such as the Medical Alley Association help researchers, startups and large firms alike connect to suppliers, talent, investors and information.
“The biggest asset though is the people,” says Frank Jaskulke, vice president of member services for The Medical Alley Association. “Very few places on earth have the breadth and depth of skilled workers with experience in commercializing life science technologies. Research can be found everywhere on earth. Only a few places can you find the experience to take that research and translate it into a commercially viable product.”
Jaskulke credits the University of Minnesota and the state’s top-rated education system with keeping a pipeline of the best and brightest flowing to the life sciences industry.
“Finding an engineer is one thing. Finding an engineer who knows ISO 13485 is another thing entirely. That is what makes Minnesota the top choice.” he says.
Research and product development in Minnesota has a profound impact on the state of health care in the U.S. and around the world.
““The economic and societal impact is so significant that it has been recognized with a permanent exhibition at the Smithsonian,” Jaskulke says. “Simply put: Health care is what Minnesota does.”