Three North Carolina companies joined the prestigious list of participants in the 2018 MedTech Innovator Accelerator and Showcase programs. The Los Angeles-based non-profit is a global competition and accelerator for medical device, digital health and diagnostic companies.

Each year, the nonprofit selects 50 early- and mid-stage companies from several countries to participate in its four-month program, featuring the industry’s most promising medical technologies from around the world.

The 2018 cohort features 25 early-stage and 25 mid-stage companies with transformative device, diagnostic, and digital health technologies. Companies are chosen to participate in either the organization’s Showcase or Accelerator program.

North Carolina-based RFPi and Physcient, both portfolio companies of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, were selected to participate in MedTech’s four-month Showcase program for mid-stage companies. Pneumonics, of Durham, was selected to compete in its Accelerator program.

Physcient’s disection device

The program will culminate September 24 to 26 in Philadelphia, where all 50 companies will present in Showcase panels and exclusive partnering at The MedTech Conference, powered by AdvaMed. From the Accelerator cohort, four companies will advance to compete in the grand finale where the vote of the audience at the largest gathering of medtech industry leaders in North America will determine the winners, with more than $500,000 in cash prizes, scholarships, and in-kind services. Multiple awards will also be given for incubator spaces at JLABS, Magnify at CNSI, and the Gore Innovation Center.

Greenville-based RFPi develops medical imaging technology that provides immediate visualization and quantification of blood flow and perfusion without the need for injections, dyes, radiation or direct patient contact. Durham-based Physcient is the developer of surgical dissection technology that makes surgery faster and safer than existing technology, especially laparoscopic or “key hole” surgery. Pneumonics develops home-based opioid overdose and hospital respiratory monitoring.

MedTech Innovator supports early- and mid-stage companies

According to Kathryn Zavala, MedTech’s vice president of operations and business development, the organization’s American Idol-style competition for participants in its Accelerator program provides a big stage for medical technology companies.

Pneumonics appeared on MedTech’s radar last year but was not yet ready for the big stage. This year, however, was different.

“They had a great idea last year, but they did not have the prototype built and had not identified who they were going after,” said Zavala. “In the past year, they have made a significant amount of progress.”

At this year’s Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati’s 26th Annual Medical Device Conference in June, Pneumonics took to the stage for a three-minute presentation and spent seven minutes answering judges’ questions. While Pneumonics did not win the final Value Award competition, it continues to receive mentorship and support from the program.

“Our Accelerator program provides an ecosystem to support early stage companies,” said Zavala. “These companies receive mentorship and virtual guidance from experts on regulatory issues, IT and other issues through a webinar series.”

Like the Accelerator program, Showcase participants have access to mentors who are leaders in medical technology.

All of our companies are matched with at least one corporate partner,” said Zavala. “Each company has at least one mentor who can guide them in areas of quality control, regulatory compliance, prototyping and manufacturing.”

The mentorship programs, Zavala points out, do not only benefit the Showcase and Accelerator participants.

“Many of our mentor companies have external innovation companies,” she said. “All of these companies understand the importance of the innovation pipeline.”

“The MedTech Accelerator and Showcase programs also provide a wonderful opportunity for these companies to expand their visibility among potential investors and strategic partners that they might not readily have access to,” added Greta Brunet, senior director of investments at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center.

NCBiotech hosts early competition phase

For this year’s competition, MedTech received more than 800 applications from companies around the world.

To identify participants from the Southeast, MedTech partnered with NCBiotech in April, where eight of the top competitors pitched their companies to a volunteer panel of judges, which included investors, manufacturers and industry experts.

“Our partnership with regional partners like the North Carolina Biotechnology Center is critical because they understand the local ecosystem and can encourage companies to apply,” said Zavala.

North Carolina judges who donated their time to the event at NCBiotech included:

  • Matt Hanley, M.D., chief medical officer of Metro Group at Atrium Health
  • Elizabeth Kelly, MBA, principal with Holden Health Ventures
  • Bryant Moore, director of strategic partnerships at the University of North Carolina’s Office of Commercialization and Economic Development
  • Lisa Pfefferle, Ph.D., associate vice president of corporate development and licensing at LabCorp
  • Adam Roth, Ph.D., director and head of operations and business development at Galvani Bioelectronics
  • Chris Steadham, general manager at Medical Murray
  • Jeff Terrell, principal with Hatteras Venture Partners
  • Anita Watkins, JD, director of Rex Strategic Innovations with UNC Rex Healthcare
(C) N.C. Biotechnology Center