March 22, 2012 - 4:19pm
BY MOLLY BLOCK
For the past three days, medical professionals from around the world gathered for the University’s Medical Innovation Center’s “Achieving Global Biomedical Innovation for Children” summit in support of advancing pediatric device development and improving the lives of sick children.
The goal of the summit is to promote the advancement of life-saving pediatric medical technologies to accommodate for the shortage of medical technologies for pediatric patients, partly due to commercial barriers. Dr. James Geiger, executive director of the MIC, said he hopes the symposium will further encourage development of pediatric devices and the betterment of pediatric patients.
“There are a lot of people out there that care,” Geiger said. “Some people attending the conference are volunteering their lives to create foundations to better the lives of children.”
University pediatric heart surgeon Richard Ohye is involved with various clinical trials, including the Pediatric Device Consortium grant program with Boston Children’s Hospital. Ohye said he understands the many challenges that arise from developing and implementing new pediatric devices.
“The population is much larger for adults,” Dr. Ohye said. “You may have hundreds of thousands who can benefit from medical devices but only a few hundred or thousand for kids and the devices have the same development costs.”
Larry Scmitt, founding partner of the Inovo Group, said his organization focuses on the resources doctors need in order to help develop new technologies.
“I push for innovation in the medical field in general,” Schmitt said. “We’re always looking for something new. We observe and understand the issues — what doctors struggle with and what we can do to help.”
Schmitt noted that in 2007, the United States Congress spurred pediatric medical device innovation with new Food and Drug Administration amendment acts — including the medical device safety and improvement act, pediatric research equity act, and best pharmaceuticals for children act.
“The FDA promotes pediatric causes to see if they can get innovation around children surgery to accommodate their special different needs through government and commercial drives,” Schmitt said.
With government incentives, there is still the contradicting economic sustainable model, which stands as an obstacle to pediatric innovation, Ohye said.
“From an industry commercial standpoint, it’s difficult for companies to spend millions of dollars on pediatric devices with less turn on their investment than an adult device of a similar nature,” Ohye said. “But there is keen interest in doing it and how to make it work.”
The small profit potential from pediatric medical technology also stems from the nature of the developing child, according to Schmitt.
“There are fewer children than adults and they are still growing,” Schmitt said. “So there is only a short amount of time for using that device which reduces the incentive for commercial companies to develop these devices. Doctors are forced to modify adult devices because there is no such technology available for children.”
Geiger said the University’s MIC received about $4 million in grants from the FDA to develop a pediatric device consortium.
“Our mission is to use innovation to improve world health,” Geiger said. “Universities are very good at discovery. We provide education for inventors whether they are students, faculty or outside people. We also provide services to find collaborators, such as engineers and doctors, and a design and prototype lab to help visualize the ideas. Ultimately, we try to speed up the time it takes to find out the idea is a good idea and if it’s good one to move it forward.”
Geiger added that he is pleased with outcome of the summit, and his expectations have been exceeded by untied a diverse group of people committed to helping pediatric patients.
“This is the first summit that the MIC has hosted so it’s a big step for us,” Geiger said. “The interaction and the relationships that are being made are the most exciting thing. I’m eager to see if something real comes out of these efforts. It’s exceeding my expectations.”