Device engineering studio takes shape at Texas Medical Center

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A new joint effort between a medical device manufacturer and a large provider organization is operating an engineering studio to focus on development and commercialization of breakthrough medical device technologies.

Johnson & Johnson Medical Device Companies (JJMDC) recently launched the Center for Device Innovation at Texas Medical Center, aiming to bring together innovators, entrepreneurs, researchers, clinicians, staff members, patients and other stakeholders to develop new tools for healthcare.

“We wanted a new place to do early high-risk projects that can’t get traction elsewhere,” says Billy Cohn, MD, a cardiothoracic surgeon, vice president of JJMDC and director of the Center for Device Innovation. “We want to maintain and keep innovation moving. We need a Tiger Team to sit and come up with crazy things to try. Innovation is a team sport.”

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Texas Medical Center, which bills itself as the largest medical complex in the world, has the resources to host an ambitious innovation program. The facility handles 10 million patient encounters and 750,000 emergency department visits annually, and performs 180,000 surgeries each year.

The engineering studio, appointed with any tools staff may need to translate ideas into products, includes a machine shop, mechanical testing laboratory, an electronic workspace with a component lab, a 3D printing lab and a virtual reality demonstration lab.

The medical center further has “preclinical resources,” which researchers, clinicians, developers and others can use to test new innovations to make sure they are safe and work before using them on patients.

While innovation is the core mission of the engineering studio, the speed of innovation isn’t far behind, says Sandi Peterson, Group Worldwide Chair of Johnson & Johnson. “With all these resources in one ZIP Code, medical devices may be developed, tested, moved to clinical trials and regulatory approval, and then provided to the doctors and patients around the world who need them faster than ever before.”

For example, one innovation being worked on is a needle that will know if it is going to hit a nerve and makes adjustments to avoid it.

“It’s amazing to look around at all the incredible science out there,” Cohn marvels. “Our world has changed so much in the past 10 years, and now we’re looking around to come up with the next generation of technology.”

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