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Posted on Sun, Nov 1, 2009 : 5:49 a.m.

University of Michigan pursues pediatric medical innovations with $1M grant

By Paula Gardner

A $1 million federal grant to the University of Michigan doesn’t just fuel a national goal of improving pediatric medical device options.

The funding - among of three awards made this fall by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration - also supports the U-M’s Medical Innovation Center. Since its creation nearly three years ago, the MIC has been systematizing creative problem-solving in the U-M Medical Center.

The MIC offers five year-long fellowships, forming a team that works with experts from across the university, bringing various departments and backgrounds into the process of creating solutions for situations that, due to routine, many in the medical system may not even define as problems.

And with those solutions, the MIC is creating opportunities to commercialize more innovation, creating business opportunities for the fellows.

With the recent award, the focus will be on solving two specific pediatric needs, said Brenda Jones, managing director of the MIC.

“Children represent a small market in any health system,” she said. “…So it’s hard to convince a manufacturer to manufacture and sell a device (with limited sales potential).”

Dr. James Geiger, executive director of the MIC and associate professor of surgery, already has created one medical device: The pyloric clamp, used on surgery in newborns and licensed for production in 2008.

With the new grant, he’ll oversee two specific projects led by U-M researchers:

• Development of a neonatal catheter.

• Development of a new treatment for small bowel syndrome.

In both cases, existing treatments or devices are not designed for children - and there’s little open-market incentive to find alternatives.

“There’s a huge need,” Jones said. “There are kids with terrible conditions, who’d really benefit.”

The MIC was among 16 applicants for the recent grant. Another $1 million was awarded between two other medical systems, Childrens Hospital Boston and University of California at San Francisco.

The funding will fund three of the five MIC fellows chosen for the next academic year, Jones said, in addition to other development costs.

As part of the brainstorming process at the MIC, fellows observe procedures and talk to many employees throughout the medical system.

So while they’ll come on board in July 2010 knowing that they have a specific focus on the two devices, they won’t be limited to only finding two solutions, Jones said.

The first class of fellows graduated in June, and the team launched two companies: Tangent Medical Technologies in Ann Arbor and Trinity Medical in Farmington Hills. The current class hopes to generate similar success.

And now the new grant - which equals the annual operating expenses for the MIC - inspires more hope that the Innovation Center’s momentum will spur more products from U-M that yield economic development in Michigan.

“It supports what we’ve done in a very short amount of time,” Jones said.

Paula Gardner is business news director at She can be reached at (734) 623-2586 or by email.