Irish eyes smile on new Northwell partnership

Island chain: Enterprise Ireland's Kevin Sherry (left) and Sean Davis (right) joined Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling (second from left) and Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the Irish Consulate in New York City.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

A new collaborative agreement with blessings from on high in Ireland’s national government will pair startups from the Emerald Isle with some of Long Island’s top clinicians and healthcare-industry decision-makers – a two-way street with enormous commercialization potential.

So say Great Neck-based Northwell Health and Enterprise Ireland, Ireland’s state-run economic-development agency focused on international exports. While the entities have already enjoyed two years of unofficial collaboration, they made it official Dec. 2, signing an agreement that gives early-stage Irish companies exclusive access to “key market leaders in the United States,” according to a Northwell Health statement, and “valuable insights in the products and services that are required in the market in the future.”

On the dotted line: Sherry and Dowling sign, Kenny approves.

On the dotted line: Sherry and Dowling sign, Kenny approves.

In the course of helping Irish innovators develop and commercialize new medical technologies, Northwell Health will also “provide platforms to integrate with U.S. healthcare companies,” the health system said.

Northwell President and CEO Michael Dowling, who visited the Irish Consulate in New York City to sign the agreement, championed it as “mutually beneficial.”

“It exposes Northwell to keen ideas, innovative technologies and small businesses in which the Irish government has already invested,” Dowling noted.

The actual signing of the agreement took place in the presence of Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who was at the consulate during an official NYC visit. The Taoiseach is the de facto prime minister of the Republic of Ireland – the head of government, appointed by the Irish president and supported by a majority of Dáil Éireann, Ireland’s lower house of representatives.

Kenny, who’s held the post since March 2011, called the deal between Enterprise Ireland and New York State’s largest private employer “highly significant.”

“The partnership will give Irish medical technologies and healthcare companies the opportunity to supply innovative products and services to one of the leading healthcare providers in the United States,” the Taoiseach said. “Having a world-class healthcare provider such as Northwell enter into this partnership agreement … is a great endorsement of what Ireland has to offer in healthcare provision and medical technology.”

While the collaboration has so far been limited mostly to discussions on how Irish companies might benefit from working more closely with Northwell Health – and a few tangible developments, including a 2014 research partnership between Irish medical-products maker i360medical and the Feinstein Institute, the health system’s R&D division – it’s already proved its worth, according to Kevin Sherry, executive director of global business development for Enterprise Ireland.

“There has been a highly active and productive engagement between Enterprise Ireland and Northwell Health over the last two years,” said Sherry, who signed the agreement along with Dowling. “This relationship has been very beneficial to Irish companies looking to gain a deeper understanding and access to the U.S. health system.”

Formalizing it, he added, gives the economic-development agency’s clients a better opportunity to understand U.S. hospital-procurement processes – and will ultimately benefit U.S. patients, as Irish innovations are sped through clinical processes and into general use.

“This will ultimately improve the efficiency of bringing new Irish technologies, products and services to benefit patients in the United States, while further confirming Ireland’s status as a global leader in healthcare solutions,” Sherry said.

The freshly formalized arrangement has already produced its first deal: Northwell Health told Innovate LI Tuesday that it had signed a contract with Enterprise Ireland client Salaso Health Solutions Ltd., a Limerick-based medical products maker that will provide innovative patient-engagement solutions – including online physical-therapy services – for Northwell patients suffering the aftereffects of stroke and various neurological disorders.

The online physical therapy solution in particular “will enhance the quality and experience of care for our patients,” noted Souhel Najjaar, Northwell Health senior vice president and executive director of Northwell’s Neurology Service Line.

That’s precisely the sort of patient-focused advances imagined by the new agreement, which will also grant Enterprise Ireland clients access to “key departments” within Northwell Health hospitals, giving them “the opportunity to learn of new developments firsthand,” according to the health system.

Such sharing of technology and resources is par for the course at the former North Shore-LIJ, Dowling said, noting Northwell Health’s “long history of promoting innovation.”

“Pairing with like-minded organizations is an integral part of that effort,” Dowling said. “We look forward to a continued fruitful relationship with Enterprise Ireland.”