The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Apr 30, 2012

Austen BioInnovation Institute conference attracts leaders in medical field and innovation

Posted by Jennifer Thomas

Dr. Frank Douglas, ABIA president and CEO

Recently, the Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron held a value-driven engineering conference including some of the country's leading doctors and innovators. The two-day conference, which attracted nearly 300 people, focused on topics such as maximizing value for patient and healthcare systems, medical device complexity and educating the next generation of value-driven engineers. 

The institute, which is supported by a $20 million grant from Knight Foundation, is a collaboration of five major clinical and academic institutions focused on making the Northeast Ohio region a leader in using polymer technology for patient-centered health care. The institute seeks to expand on the area's strong tradition in industrial and material science to help lead the next generation of life-enhancing and life-saving innovation.

About the conference and the institute's broader goals, Knight's VP/Chief Financial Officer & Treasurer, Juan Martinez said:

"The conference, which was held at the John S. Knight Center, included institutions such as Johns Hopkins, MIT, Stanford, NASA, NIH and FDA, as well as companies like Zimmer, Medtronic and local clinical and commercial businesses. The institute actively engages our nation's leaders in various sectors to explore the promise of maintaining our country's competitiveness through the development of innovative medical devices that focus on improved clinical utility for, and ease of use by, the patient or provider of care, as well as cost efficiency for the healthcare system."

The Akron Beacon Journal covered the conference writing: "The value-driven engineering concept means developing lower-cost, high-value and quality medical devices that are useful to the patients and the doctors and others who care for them. Medical devices include a wide range of products that are used to diagnose, treat or support body function without medications. Items can range from tongue depressors to CT scanners and pacemakers."

The conference program, including a full list of speakers and sessions, is available online. In his welcome message, the President and CEO of the Austen BioInnovation Institute, Dr. Frank Douglas, wrote:

"Akron, Ohio is the ideal local for the first large collaboration of national leaders to advance medical innovation. The city, which once was known as the "Rubber Capital," has made strides during the past five years to become a major center of life science innovation and commercialization. Collectively, Northeast Ohio's institutions conduct more than $500 million annually in healthcare research and the region has become fertile ground for growing biomedical companies.

Last fall, Martinez blogged about how the institute's collaborative approach has already resulted in successes for driving Northeast Ohio's knowledge-based economy.  In the two years since it began operations, the institute’s strategy has created a national reputation unusual for its size. 

The institute also recently announced the formation of APTO Orthopaedics, the first medical device company created by the institute. Formed in partnership with a pediatric surgeon at Akron Children's Hospital, its device will address early onset scoliosis in children and eliminate multiple surgeries by using magnets to lengthen a spine implant for the condition.  

The founders of the institute include the Akron Children’s HospitalAkron General Health SystemNortheast Ohio Medial UniversitySumma Health System, and The University of Akron.

In the 60 years since Knight Foundation was formed, Knight has committed over $132 million to Akron – more than a quarter of that, or $32 million, since 2008. The amount represents Knight’s largest commitment to any single community.

By Jennifer Thomas, program director/Akron at Knight Foundation.

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