Md. Innovation Initiative invests in biomedical projects

A Maryland corporation established to help accelerate the commercialization of new technologies has awarded nearly $300,000 to three Johns Hopkins–related projects that hold promise for ushering new medical devices to the marketplace.

In its first round of investments, the Maryland Innovation Initiative gave awards to Boss Medical LLC, a Johns Hopkins University startup company; and two School of Medicine faculty members working on medical devices.

Boss Medical, which is developing a novel way to harvest bone grafts in a minimally invasive way from the patient's own body for a spinal surgery procedure, received a $99,860 award. Edith Gurewitsch Allen, an associate professor of gynecology and obstetrics in the Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine, was given $99,818 to support her research concerning a device called TheraCord for collecting umbilical cord blood, the most viable source of stem cells. The third award, for $100,000, went to Kieren A. Marr, a professor of medicine, who is studying a new point-of-care diagnostic device for lung infections.

Two of these projects—the Boss Medical and cord blood systems—originated as student devices in the Department of Biomedical Engineering's Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design, or CBID, which offers a master's degree program aimed at developing innovative biomedical devices for the global marketplace. The BME department is jointly administered by the university's schools of Engineering and Medicine.

"The investment that the School of Engineering and the BME Department has made in translational technology development, through CBID, is really paying off with important new solutions to unmet clinical needs," says Elliot McVeigh, director of Biomedical Engineering. "This funding comes at an ideal time to bridge the gap for these projects from very early technology into local medtech startups."

Youseph Yazdi, executive director of CBID, commends the state for the financial support for these projects. "This new TEDCO [Maryland Technology Development Corp.] program provides critical gap funding to move these great innovations into startups that will grow Maryland's medtech commercial ecosystem," he says. "Without it, many of these ideas may not realize their potential to save lives and create jobs in Maryland."

Maxim Budyansky, co-founder and chief technology officer of Boss Medical, began work on the bone-harvesting device as a CBID master's degree student in 2010. After completing the program in 2011, he and a fellow student, Neil Shah, launched the company with three School of Medicine clinical advisers.

"We are grateful that Maryland is providing such a great funding environment," Budyansky says. "Without this funding, we wouldn't be able to pursue our goal of achieving clinical impact with new technology."

The Maryland Innovation Initiative was created by the General Assembly to commercialize technology developed at five qualifying Maryland universities: Johns Hopkins; University of Maryland, College Park; University of Maryland, Baltimore County; University of Maryland, Baltimore; and Morgan State University. Administered by the Maryland Technology Development Corp., the initiative has a $5.8 million budget for the 2013 fiscal year. This year's awards are the group's first major investments.