Venture capital investments in medical device companies are down significantly, 20 percent across the country, and the Southeast Medical Device Association (SEMDA) plans to do something about it, says Jason Rupp, executive director.

In an exclusive interview with WRAL Techwire at the recent CED Life Science Conference, Rupp also said the 13-year old organization wants to extend its in North Carolina, which has a statewide medical device cluster.

“That’s why SEMDA pitches were part of the CED conference this year,” he said. He noted that for a long time, SEMDA focused primarily on Atlanta. The association currently includes about 60 companies and 300 members.

North Carolina has more than 330 companies related to the medical device industry, according to NCBIO.

They include:

  • 151 in the Triangle
  • 84 in the Charlotte area
  • 29 in East NC
  • 21 in Western NC

The majority, 236, are support and related firms, while 86 are conducting research and development, 47 are manufacturing companies, 14 do contract research and testing and 3 do sales and operations.

Investor outreach, professional development planned

The industry employs 9,000 people in the state and the number employed grew 20.4 percent from 2007 to 2014 according to Battelle/BIO’s state biosciences jobs, investments and innovation study.

Rupp said SEMDA is looking for ways to help medical device startups more attractive to investors. “We’re going to do that two ways,” he said. “Both through investor outreach and by improving companies.”

The technology is there and companies are winning patents, but “We’re looking at how we can help entrepreneurs do a better job at talking about what they do,” Rupp said. Part of that is helping them improve their communications and part will involve creating opportunities for professional growth for CEOs,” he added.

“Part of VC’s discomfort with medical device companies is presentation.” To address that, SEMDA wants to help entrepreneurs master delivering “What investors really want, the analysis, by increasing their skills there.”

SEMDA plans things like trial presentations at road show events in Orlando, FL, Birmingham, AL, Charleston, SC, and Atlanta. Its annual conference is in Atlanta April 26-27.

Currently, Rupp said, the hottest products in the medical device field address cardiology, but “Healthcare IT is really hot,” he said. Connecting doctors, hospitals and patients, cost efficiency and compliance are areas of high interest.

The April meeting in Atlanta will include a “Speed dating” session with investors, including corporate players such as Johnson and Johnson. Investors will select 5 to present at the conference and the winner will receive $10,000 and a slot in the AdvaMed Medtech Innovation program in the fall.