Economic development with surgical precision

MIDI's second-generation owners are keeping their eyes on Long Island's prize.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

With design in its DNA, MIDI Medical Product Development has a long commercialization history. With its new Innovation Center, the veteran Smithtown maker is focused squarely on Long Island’s future.

Two months after cutting the ribbon on its new 6,500-square-foot headquarters and Innovation Center – a buzzing design and manufacturing hub staffed by 30 MIDI engineers, software developers, industrial designers and user-interface experts – the 44-year-old company is expanding its own parameters while advancing on a key ancillary objective: Long Island as medical-product mecca.

That’s a primary function of the Innovation Center, noted Gregory Montalbano, half of a second-generation tag-team now managing the circa-1972 startup launched by patriarch Tony Montalbano.

Gregory Montalbano: Building up LI's economic hopes.

Gregory Montalbano: Building up LI’s economic hopes.

Noting cutting-edge biotech and medical-science research at Stony Brook University and other Long Island institutions, Montalbano sees the coming of an Island-wide product-development ecosystem – and along with his brother, Christopher Montalbano, is positioning MIDI as a primary hub.

“We feel medical innovation is becoming a real staple of Long Island industry,” Gregory Montalbano told Innovate LI. “In the coming years, it will replace the Grumman-type manufacturing industries of the past.”

So in May the brothers Montalbano opened the Innovation Center, which shares its 17,300-square-foot Village of the Branch building with a 10,800-square-foot Northwell Health diagnostic imaging center. The MIDI facility – which features engineering studios, prototyping labs, high-end industrial 3D printers and an array of next-level software suites – performs scientific-product R&D for clients as large as GE Healthcare and as small as the biotech startup next door.

“It’s really here to service our clients,” Montalbano said of the center, “and to foster commercialization of the companies and research spinning out of Stony Brook.”

The connections between MIDI and SBU are many, including seats for both brothers on the advisory board of the Long Island Bioscience Hub, a grand commercialization effort featuring SBU, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Brookhaven National Laboratory and the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research. Strong ties with university researchers and commercialization officers give MIDI a steady stream of regional clients, Montalbano noted.

“We have a very nice relationship with Stony Brook with regards to our ability to have various clients from the university, and also to help define and develop new technologies for clients we meet through the Bioscience Hub,” he said.

Besides the Innovation Center, MIDI is best known for its DevelopmentDNA, a proprietary commercialization methodology that covers everything from conceptualization to high-tech prototyping to federal compliance.

Depending on a client’s size and exact needs, MIDI can jump into the commercialization process at virtually any point, starting with “voice of the customer interviews” and other market research designed to help MIDI develop efficient and customer-friendly products around a client’s technology.

“Ultimately the end design and engineering fits the user’s needs like a hand in a glove,” Montalbano said.

DevelopmentDNA also keeps a staunch eye on safety-compliance protocols, no mean feat when dealing with medical products. The commercialization program is designed to satisfy stringent FDA quality-system and International Organization for Standardization regulations – an absolute must for entrepreneurs bringing new medical products to market, Montalbano noted.

“Every medical product, from a diagnostic instrument to a surgical implant, needs to comply with this process,” he said. “And it’s not a simple process.

“Our DevelopmentDNA process is not only our innovation engine, but it also helps clients comply with these very detailed processes,” Montalbano added. “These are strict processes that mitigate risk and ensure usable, effective and safe products.”

The process has served customers of all sizes. DevelopmentDNA played a part in the creation of the Surgical Microkeratome – a precision instrument that uses water-jet technology to cut micron-thick slices in the cornea, facilitating corrective laser-eye surgery – for VISX, a small California startup later acquired by Illinois-based Abbott Medical Optics.

Siemen's Immulite 2000.

Siemen’s Immulite 2000.

It also helped international medical-product giant Siemens commercialize the Immulite 2000, a freestanding, super-advanced immunoassay analyzer that can analyze 200 patient blood samples per hour.

“They had the core analyzation technology, we worked to commercialize both the analyzer and the liquid and solid disposables,” Montalbano noted. “That one definitely hit on all cylinders, as far as our development capabilities.

“Sometimes we’re involved in very early development, where it’s nothing but a technology in a laboratory,” he added. “Sometimes the client is a little farther along. Either way, we have to balance our technological skills with meeting quality-safety requirements and an orientation toward the end user.”

Such end-to-end product-development expertise, calling on so many different disciplines, might not be what Tony Montalbano envisioned when he launched Montalbano Innovation Development Inc. four decades go. But for his sons, who inherited the family business from the retiring founder 25 years ago, it’s the best bet to keep MIDI in the middle of Long Island’s innovation economy.

“We’re competing with innovation centers on the West Coast and in Boston,” Montalbano said. “But we envision Long Island garnering that same reputation in the next five years.

“Pharmaceuticals and biotech companies will be coming to Long Island to do that kind of business,” he added. “And it will just grow from there.”


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