In Houston’s JLABS, a blueprint for Long Island

Innovation onramp: The JLABS facility tucked inside the Texas Medical Center Innovation Institute capitalizes on plenty of startup traffic.

I’ve been developing clients’ med-tech devices, in all possible applications, for 28 years, and my company has been doing it for 47.

No, I didn’t invent a time machine (yet). As the second-generation owner of MIDI Medical Product Development, I’m helping to carry on Long Island’s long tradition of medical-product development.

Our clients and their corresponding R&D mindsets have certainly shifted over the years, with more focus on supporting independent, entrepreneurial, lean startups with emerging technologies. From 1972 to 2009, some 95 percent of MIDI’s clients were Fortune 500 companies. But over the past 10 years, roughly half of our clients were lean med-tech startups and emerging companies, many newly graduated from incubators and accelerators in locations as far apart as Houston and Hong Kong.

Over the past decade, there has been an explosive, exponential growth of med-tech emanating from independent startups worldwide. So how do the Fortune 500 med-tech and pharmaceutical companies effectively respond to this R&D shift – how do they capitalize and drink from the seemingly infinite well of startup innovation existing outside their organizations?

Some of the best answers to these and other questions can be found in Johnson & Johnson’s multi-location startup arm, known as JLABS, and the Houston-based Texas Medical Center Innovation Institute, where I serve as an external innovation advisor.

Med-tech startups face significant barriers, and for the past six years, JLABS and the TMC have provided capital-efficient, flexible business-accelerator and incubator platforms for emerging companies looking to address the most challenging needs in the healthcare industry.

Johnson & Johnson thought leaders were looking for solutions on how to shift the corporate R&D mindset. Born of pure insight, the startup partnering program embedded at the TMC – one of nine JLABS around the globe – is meant to tap into innovation happening outside J&J.

Greg Montalbano: Solving med-tech problems in Houston.

The medical center was the perfect synergistic partner to connect JLABS to startups in the TMC’s own incubator programs, and to a multitude of local hospital groups, organizations and providers – direct access to healthcare voice-of-the-customer information.

The primary end deliverable for JLABS is to build and expand an external medical-device and pharma portfolio of innovation and value. In addition to R&D space and equipment and on-site IT and business-logistics support, the program includes a year-round commercialization curriculum and a roster of specialists and advisors who mentor the scientists and entrepreneurs about turning their research and early applications into viable companies.

The JLABS and TMC initiative has been wildly successful, with well over 500 companies circulating through the TMC incubator and JLABS accelerator programs. JLABS has not only become closer to the entrepreneurial community, but has also given Johnson & Johnson early positioning on new med-tech under development.

Being a part of the JLABS and TMC process, culture and support system is very rewarding for me as a med-tech developer and business owner. The innovation engine that the TMC has built in partnership with JLABS is an amazing accomplishment that’s quickly building up the Houston metropolitan area as the “med-tech Silicon Valley” for emerging companies.

This initiative will pay many dividends for the TMC, Johnson & Johnson, the Houston regional economy and the medical industry.

So, here’s my question for you, Long Island: Are you ready, willing and able to achieve that level of med-tech success? A Long Island innovation consortium is needed and MIDI is ready to participate!

Greg Montalbano is a principal at Smithtown-based MIDI Medical Product Development, a JLABS mentor and a member of the Texas Medical Center Innovation Institute Advisor Network.


1 Comment on "In Houston’s JLABS, a blueprint for Long Island"

  1. Hey Greg — Great article!

    And your question — “Are you ready, willing and able to achieve that level of med-tech success? A Long Island innovation consortium is needed and MIDI is ready to participate!” OH YEAH, fasten your seat belt and let’s go. And of course, MIDI is essential!

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