This past week, Medgadget was invited to take a tour of Northeast Indiana, a region of ten counties surrounding and encompassing the city of Fort Wayne. You might already know about Warsaw, about 30 miles from Fort Wayne, as the headquarters for DePuy, Biomet, Zimmer, and a number of other companies that make the city the leading orthopedic device leader in the world. However, the rest of Northeast Indiana has also been evolving into a thriving medical device manufacturing hub, as labor is available, land is plentiful, and the region is very open and friendly toward the medical device manufacturing industry. In fact, according to the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, our host for the two day tour, the region has consistently been a leader in terms of dollars invested and jobs created in the industry. Over two days, we toured a number of different companies and talked to a number of executives about what makes their businesses successful and why they’re at a good place being in Northeast Indiana.
Our first stop was Micropulse, a contract manufacturer of implants and instruments for a number of large medical device clients. Micropulse was originally founded to produce parts for the automotive industry, but in the early 2000’s, founder and CEO Brian Emerick saw his business growing stagnant, and so he switched to medical devices and has never looked back since. What’s interesting about Micropulse is that its facilities are also headquarters to the OrthoVation Center, a new incubator for Emerick’s other medical product ventures. The OrthoVation Center currently is home to four companies: Del Palma Orthopedics, Nanovis, BioSpine, and Sites Medical.
The next stop on our tour was a company that uses state-of-the-art technology to sterilize medical devices and other products. Vancouver-based Iotron recently opened a $15 million sterilization facility in the area and wanted to show us around.
Unlike current sterilization technologies that use gamma radiation or ethylene oxide gas, Iotron uses an electron beam for irradiation, which allows for much faster processing and greater flexibility in terms of applications, which in turn leads to lower cost for both the company and client. Electron beam technology also causes less material degradation compared to gamma radiation.
Our tour included a cool look at the electron beam generator and emitter (pictured), which is housed in the maze-like “shield”. Pretty cool stuff.
Next, we traveled to Warsaw to visit Precision Medical Technologies, another contract manufacturer of orthopedic implants and surgical instruments. PMT has been extremely successful and is building another facility to handle their instrument manufacturing division in a neighboring county. Much of PMT’s success can be attributed to investing money in expensive, yet more sophisticated machinery that reduces the number of steps that it takes to manufacture a part, resulting in fewer variances and greater productivity. PMT also works very closely with local high schools and colleges to develop talented and experienced individuals to support the industry in the region.
Next was LH Medical, a division of LH Industries, which manufactures parts for a number of different types of businesses. Their medical division was started only about five years ago and has seen great success. Part of their vision is to manufacture all the parts that the other companies feel are too difficult or too low volume to manufacture. LH Medical also has its own team of design engineers to assist their clients in refining the design and manufacturing process.
Our last stop was the campus of the University of Notre Dame to visit Innovation Park, an organization that provides facilities, funding, and other support for startups in life sciences and other industries. We had the opportunity to learn about some of the life science startups currently housed within their beautiful, new facility overlooking the Fighting Irish athletic complexes. CareX, founded by a Notre Dame management professor, is developing web-based point-of-care systems for physicians, caregivers, and extended/assisted living home nurses to track changes in their patients’ health.
Altapure, whose device we wrote about back in February, has developed a room/area sterilizer using ultrasonic technology to produce a highly dense cloud of liquid that can eliminate dangerous pathogens. F Cubed is developing and commercializing lab-on-chip technology to rapidly detect the DNA of dangerous bacteria in recreational and drinking water, food, and human fluid samples.
Overall, we got the sense that there’s a lot of innovation in the region, and we’re optimistic that, given the high rate of growth in the area, Northeast Indiana will join the ranks of the major medical hubs in the U.S.