How to build a better med-tech entrepreneur

Good advice: Students in Associate Professor Wei Yin's Design in Biomedical Engineering course hear directly from MIDI Medical Product Development's Gregory Montalbano.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

One of this generation’s commercialization aces says Long Island’s next crop of healthcare visionaries has got the goods.

They’re not ready for prime time. Only some have advanced as far as prototyping. But the medical technology (and the creativity) are off the charts, according to Gregory Montalbano, a principal executive at Smithtown-based MIDI Medical Product Development who, for the third straight year, was invited to consult students under the tutelage of Stony Brook University Department of Biomechanical Engineering Associate Professor Wei Yin.

Specifically, Montalbano got to review 80-plus medical mock-ups and/or “design reports” submitted by pending graduates in Yin’s Design in Biomedical Engineering class. The seniors earn their stripes in May, and the annual senior design project culminates a semester-long challenge in which those imminent grads identified specific healthcare needs and developed devices or software to meet them.

That assignment, naturally, is right in the sweet spot for MIDI Medical Product Development, which opened a 6,500-square-foot Innovation Center in Smithtown’s Village of the Branch in 2016 to ramp up commercial design and testing of new healthcare devices. MIDI also provided a letter of support when Yin applied in 2016 to the National Institute of Health’s Research Education Program, seeking a grant to fund the Design in Biomedical Engineering program (she got it).

To Montalbano’s keen professional eye, most of the ideas shared Monday by Yin’s 2019 flock were raw, “nothing that’s ready to launch or ready to raise money.” But the ingenuity, he says, was there.

“They’re going through super-early, preliminary proof-of-concept modeling,” Montalbano told Innovate LI. “But they’re connecting with doctors and physicians who are guiding them through the identification of real needs within the medical space, and the creation of the new technologies.”

Wei Yin: Designing smarter med-tech — and smarter med-tech designers.

Several submissions stood out, according to the guest consultant, who noted ideas for new diagnostic equipment, physical therapy devices and other medical tools, including one “more advanced” prototype of a monitoring device that tracks blood pressure and blood oxygenation during surgery.

There was also a software application that attempted to map neural pathways in the brain and an additive-manufacturing device that fabricated actual human skin, “a unique application of 3D-printing technology,” Montalbano noted.

But the design project was “more of an educational process than it was about launching any particular products,” the consultant added, and to that end provided students with invaluable real-world experiences.

“They have access to Stony Brook University’s tech centers and the various physicians and hospital groups,” Montalbano said, allowing them to “perform voice-of-the-customer reviews, identify various applications and look at different technologies that will satisfy those applications.

“This helps them visualize the possibilities of entrepreneurial activities in the med-tech space,” he noted.

And that’s the true promise of the Design in Biomedical Engineering program, according to Montalbano: dual purposes that show the next generation of med-tech makers how to zero in on specific needs and solutions and how to navigate treacherous product-design and commercialization waters.

“These are students in their early 20s and they’re already getting exposure to various voice-of-the-customer sources within the Stony Brook system,” the MIDI principal noted. “They’re very ambitious, they’re very energetic and their eyes are wide open to the kinds of entrepreneurs they want to be.

“This really helps them enter the world of entrepreneurship far quicker than 10 or even five years ago,” Montalbano added. “Looking forward to five or 10 years from now, students will be even further connected with information and technology, and their innovative applications will be even more advanced.

“That will ultimately result in better products, better entrepreneurs and better executives entering the med-tech space.”