At MIDI, taking the cutting edge on the road

Difference maker: MIDI Medical Product Development's year-old Innovation Center in Smithtown is hitting its stride.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

Nearly a year after giving itself a massive home-field advantage, MIDI Medical Product Development is putting in some roadwork.

Last week, it was Medical Device & Manufacturing West, a California showcase that annually attracts more than 20,000 medtech engineers and executives – a virtual mothership to the Smithtown-based medical maker. In May, it will be BIOMEDevice, an MD&M event in Boston promoted as “New England’s largest medtech event,” then MD&M East in June at Manhattan’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

In between, according to principal Christopher Montalbano, is as much interstate networking as he and his brother and partner Gregory Montalbano, who manned the MIDI booth at MD&M West in Anaheim, can manage.

It’s not that the brothers don’t like Long Island. This region is “up and coming” in the medical-device market and shares a “high concentration of medical need” with New York City, Christopher Montalbano told Innovate LI.

And things are cooking at MIDI’s 6,500-square-foot Innovation Center, Montalbano added, with the headquarters/manufacturing hub – which opened last spring and boasts dozens of engineers, software developers, industrial designers and user-interface specialists – “at capacity” and “a line of technologists waiting to be reviewed.”

But “it all ties into funding,” according to Montalbano, and so the brothers keep hitting the bricks.

Both are part of the Stony Brook University Center for Biotechnology review board, the body responsible for selecting early-stage companies worthy of center funding and other resources. They’re both also members of the Biomedical Innovation Advisory Team at the Columbia-Coulter Translational Research Partnership, a funding/mentoring effort dedicated to improving patient care, established by Columbia University and the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation.

“These technologists and scientists all require funding, and that’s what the Stony Brook and Columbia-Coulter program are all about,” Montalbano noted.

For MIDI, it’s about a front-row seat to medical innovation – and piling up new opportunities to assist those scientists with “developing new biomedical technologies, choosing new commercialization directions and other implementation assistance,” Montalbano added.

“The networking is very important, not only with clients but with suppliers and other manufacturers in the biomedical and biotech industries,” he said. “The engineering departments of various medical-device companies get a look at what’s out there, including what resources are out there, us being one of them.

“We get to see the latest happenings, and we’re usually the ones who can help them bring it through and commercialize it.”

Christopher Montalbano: Front-row seats.

There’s plenty of that already happening in Smithtown, where MIDI’s “DevelopmentDNA” – the company’s “unique and effective,” customizable product-development methodology – is routinely applied to numerous projects.

One recent client came, “funding in hand,” according to Montalbano, looking to prototype a germicidal device to sterilize hospital hallways; another current and “very confidential” design project involves wearable bioelectronic devices. From medical lasers to DNA sequencers to room-sized vascular imaging systems, the 45-year-old firm has its fingerprints on dozens of blueprints.

But with a client roster comprised largely of startups and other early-stage enterprises, MIDI faces a unique funding challenge: It doesn’t hurt for cash, but its clients sometimes do. Hence the consistent pavement-pounding, with the bothers Montalbano surveying the landscape from SBU and Columbia and cherry-picking those ripe networking opportunities.

“We select them based on where our clientele is mostly based,” Montalbano noted. “There’s a great concentration in the Boston area. We find the Boston/New England area down to New York City and Long Island has a high concentration, along with the southern West Coast.”

While MIDI continues to ramp up its bioelectronics focus – another Next Big Thing involves a microchip that could completely redefine the speed and accuracy of lab-based biological sampling – the evolution of the Innovation Center, which celebrates a year of operation in May, has really broadened the company’s vision, Montalbano said.

“Our new facility has really allowed us to expand the portfolio of the type of projects we’re able to take on,” he noted. “Our core research and development has been enhanced and we’re doing a lot more front-end, groundbreaking activities related to product commercialization.”

That includes whole design teams dedicated to things like human-machine interfaces, spatial optimization and workflow analysis – critical areas as big thinkers on Long Island (and elsewhere) kick their medical-product machinations into higher gears.

“We see a definite uptick in the medical industry on Long Island,” Montalbano said. “There’s a lot more interest and state funding coming to the Long Island corridor, with the governor providing significant funding to enhance biotechnology in this area.

“You also see major players, such as (Melville-based) Canon Biomedical, growing here, both through acquisition and natural growth,” he added. “We’re feeling good about the prospect for continued growth of medical on the Island.”


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