In East Asia, wisdom for Smithtown med-tech innovator

Chinese takeaway: After a scouting mission to East Asia, Smithtown's MIDI Medical Product Development is forging new partnerships with "advanced" Chinese manufacturers.

Global ambitions and some sizzling Asian economies have a Smithtown med-tech innovator poised for a very happy New Year.

Fresh off a December trek from Singapore north into Hong Kong and China, partners Christopher and Gregory Montalbano – the second-generation brains behind Smithtown-based MIDI Medical Product Development – are planning several Far East forays in the coming months, including partnerships with some of China’s most advanced manufacturers.

Describing East Asia as “humming with funding and innovation,” Gregory Montalbano referenced a twofold late-2017 mission for the entrepreneurial brothers: to both introduce MIDI’s product-development expertise to Asian med-tech startups and to forge new alliances with the region’s “advanced contract manufacturers.”

Fieldwork is nothing new to the Montalbanos, who’ve made the rounds since launching their state-of-the-art Innovation Center in 2016, personally spreading word of the 6,500-square-foot hub’s leading-edge tech and next-generation professional staff – featuring dozes of engineers and software specialists – in convention halls and conference rooms.

But in Singapore, Hong Kong and China, the road warriors sense a special opportunity – a combination of economic and industrial factors that, according to Montalbano, virtually scream for a partner like MIDI.

It starts with those Chinese contract manufacturers – not what most people might imagine, Montalbano told Innovate LI, though lacking a key element MIDI readily provides.

“Most people think of Chinese manufacturers as being fairly simple, but Chinese manufacturers are incredibly advanced,” he said, noting cutting-edge technologies and compliance with U.S. Food & Drug Administration manufacturing requirements, among other high international standards.

What those Chinese manufacturers don’t have, Montalbano noted, is expertise in front-end design – the exact sort of product-development talents MIDI and its bustling Innovation Center bring to the workbench.

“They’re not involved in front-end design, understanding customer interfaces and workflow, how the technology’s design will fit into the landscape, etc.,” Montalbano said. “They’re really good at ‘here are the specifications, here are the drawings, make it great.’

“But that creative, front-end ideation is what they don’t possess.”

And precisely what MIDI does – a hand that fits perfectly into an evolving glove, according to Montalbano, who noted domestic giants like GE Healthcare and Philips Healthcare and many smaller med-tech startups “are starting to demand that contract manufacturers have more front-end development expertise.”

West meets East: The brothers Montalbano (Christopher left, Gregory right) and one of many Asian med-tech executives they met on their recent voyage, this in Hong Kong.

“They want a one-stop shop,” he said. “They don’t want to jump from one end to the other or have any kind of disconnect.

“They’re demanding more of the contract manufacturer.”

While MIDI enjoys working relationships with manufacturers both home and abroad, the trend in East Asia is especially rich with potential for the niche innovator with the right set of med-tech development chops.

December’s Asian excursion gave the 45-year-old Smithtown firm, launched in 1972 by patriarch Tony Montalbano, a leg up with international manufacturers whose revenues soar into the billions – and “there are not a lot of companies like MIDI with deep ties to international contract manufacturers on these levels,” according to Gregory Montalbano.

And that in a region where economic indicators are soaring: Montalbano referenced Hong Kong’s economy as an example, “heavy influenced by China” and “absolutely rocking and rolling.”

“There is a huge amount of development money and R&D happening in Hong Kong,” he said. “It all involves automated robotics and surgical and medical technologies and these technology parks that are incredibly well-funded.

“They have robust management teams,” Montalbano added. “We’re looking to form relationships and begin helping them move forward, taking technology designs into commercialization.”

Several relationships “are being formed as we speak,” he noted, and developing those Asian markets will be a big part of MIDI’s 2018 focus.

But not the only part. There’s plenty going on domestically, too – for instance, new FDA clearance for the Ortek ECD, a lightweight, tabletop, super-sensitive “microcavity” detector developed in part by MIDI on behalf of Roslyn Heights-based Ortek Therapeutics, a startup spun out of the Stony Brook University School of Dental Medicine.

“We have many focuses,” Montalbano said. “We have many domestic and international clients. But these relationships we’re starting in Hong Kong and with the Chinese manufacturers are definitely part of our global plan.

“And we think it will be very successful, based on what we’ve seen so far from our future partners,” he added. “Because we can offer the full front-end services all the way through final product design, we believe these contract manufacturers will find real value in partnering with MIDI.”

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