Is Central New York perfectly positioned to be a leader in medical device innovation?
Kathi Durdon, CNY Biotech Accelerator’s Director of Operations and Innovation Partnerships, strongly believes medical device innovation is a key strength of the region, supported by available resources and interest in the industry. Prior to her current position, she came from Welch Allyn, one of many high profile medical companies in the area, and as a result, she has many contacts and much expertise in the field of medical devices.
The CNY Biotech Accelerator (CNYBAC) is owned by SUNY Upstate and came onto the CNY innovation scene in 2012, but did not complete its construction until late 2016. It is now one of the most popular venues in the area for educational and innovation community events, and their beautiful 200+ seat theater is a TED approved space. The facility is designed to be able to assist early discovery innovators and startups, as well as companies ready for an accelerator and incubation program.
Together with Dr. Robert Corona, Associate Dean for Academic and Industry Relations and Chief Innovation Officer, and Kathy Gancarz, Facilities and Systems Manager, Kathi Durdon and her team formed Upstate MIND (Medical Innovation and Novel Discovery Center). The support of other local organizations including National Grid, who funded the Creation Garage, and SUNY ESF, an original founder of CNYBAC and funder of the client shared equipment within the building, added to the value CNYBAC provides, which is why there is currently limited lab space and an increasingly competitive application and approval process.
It is important to note that even if you are not a member of the CNY Biotech Accelerator, any biotech startup is welcome to the mentorship and resources it offers. The CNY Biotech Accelerator is a proud facilitator and collaborator, and truly wants to be able to best serve startups by providing them access to all events, facilities, and resources available to them, even if it is not at their facility. The Syracuse Innovation Connectors, of which Kathi Durdon is a member, is another local attempt to open lines of communication and increase understanding and awareness of the programs, resources, and events our ecosystem has to offer. This level of collaboration allows all members to raise the tide for the ecosystem as a whole.
Thanks to a grant from Empire State Development, the CNY Biotech Accelerator was able to take the pursuit of medical device innovation one step further in 2017 with the creation of the annual Medical Device Innovation Challenge (MDIC). From January to June, early stage medical device innovators apply to be chosen as one of 5-7 participating companies after undergoing a review by committee and interview.
Each chosen company has access to 6 months of free space in the Creation Garage, access to the prototyping equipment and new 3D printer, a pass to 43 North for those who fulfill the program, investment opportunities, and very intensive mentorship. The beginning of the program starts with the creation of a milestone plan with their 2 assigned mentors, followed by mandatory monthly milestone meetings. Each team is also required to participate in the Concept to Commercialization Bootcamp and attend the annual NEXT Conference.
There is a strong preference for local applicants, because when they are done with the MDIC program, they are encouraged to remain involved in the community. Not everybody wants to start a company, so the outcome of the MDIC is to essentially make a go or no-go decision about their innovation. Throughout the program, they will decide if selling the innovation, partnering, starting their own company, or abandoning the project altogether is the best way forward. All outcomes are viewed as a success and the program culminates with a 10 minute pitch presentation of the results.
One Stone Tech, was one of the 5 graduating companies out of the inaugural class of the MDIC and led by mentors Mary Ann Tyszko, Nasir Ali and Rami Katz. Founder, Dr. Wendy Scinta, also won the first MDIC pitch presentation. One Stone Tech’s enthusiasm, dedication to success despite many other commitments, and willingness to listen to their mentors were big accredited as factors for their success in the program.
Dr. Scinta is an electrical engineer by trade, with degrees in electrical and computer engineering from Clarkson University and University of Rochester. Six years into her career, while simultaneously working at Xerox and getting her masters degree, her advisor at U of R, Dr. Denham Ward, noticed and encouraged her interest in the medical field and finally convinced her to pursue medical school.
She is currently the owner of Medical Weight Loss of NY, where she’s been practicing for 11 years, as well as the president of the Obesity Medicine Association. After attending medical school at SUNY Upstate, she became interested in obesity medicine while in her Family Medicine residency at Duke University. As an engineer, she sought answers to the core ailment that needs treating. In this case, it was behavioral modification and nutrition components combined with exercise. This combined interest in both technology and medicine is how she ended up in the innovation arena.
During her time in medical school and in residency, she worked on and off with Welch Allyn and submitted a couple patents, which just strengthened her passion and experience in blending technical innovation and medicine. Dr. Bob Corona, who at the time was Chief Medical Officer and VP of Medical and Scientific Affairs, was an advisor on some of these patent projects, until he was approached about a nutrition and exercise monitoring startup opportunity. Dr. Scinta ended up joining him.
As all great entrepreneurs know, failure is a prerequisite of success. Prior to starting her own company, Dr. Scinta experienced the struggles of a being part of a failed startup. In this case, the decline and failure of startup, 3Pound Health, taught her the ultimate importance of patient messaging and knowing the needs of your target user. Afterwards, she went out to start her own company armed with lessons learned to avoid the same mistakes.
One Stone Tech, founded in 2015, is a patient engagement platform using texting to help obesity patients stay engaged throughout their weight loss journey. It uses artificial intelligence to be able to effectively scale the effects of a health coach in order to assist more patients. The software is now piloting at Medical Weight Loss of NY and there are collaborations occurring with SUNY Oswego and other companies, including a pharmaceutical partner looking for a solution to patient engagement.
Strong companies are not created alone. In addition to Dr. Scinta, colleagues Dr. Kevin Setter and Bruce Tanner are all equal partners in One Stone Tech. Tim Callahan was then recruited as CEO to take the concept from idea to the MVP that is being tested right now and Mozzo Analytics was brought in as another collaborator in the project. In addition to her MDIC mentors, Mary Ann Tyszko, who Dr. Scinta knew through the Women Presidents Organization, emerged as a strong supporter and consultant of One Stone Tech.
After successfully applying to and participating in the Medical Device Innovation Challenge (MDIC), Dr. Scinta expressed a lot of praise for the high quality mentorship, access, and guidance she received. Originally from Buffalo, she is floored by the talent in Central New York, specifically in medical technologies. She, too, believes that CNY is deserving of national and international attention for the medical innovations being developed here. She personally wants to be part of connecting the brilliant minds that reside here with the doers who have the ability to create truly great outcomes.
“Personally, I think Syracuse can become the place where we really deal with obesity in a way that involves all of our community, and where we are able to finally make a dent in obesity treatment and prevention by pulling the right people together with the right talent and connections.”
– Dr. Wendy Scinta, Founder of One Stone Tech
One Stone Tech is now seeking $1.5 million to commercialize their MVP over the next 2 years. With their positive relationships with pharmaceutical companies, they look forward to expanding their piloting program and getting this technology to market. For further information about One Stone Tech opportunities, please contact Dr. Wendy Scinta at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The CNY Biotech Accelerator is also looking for more industry corporate involvement and would like to pursue partnerships with those companies willing to take on medical innovations from small companies. One proposed solution to increase corporate involvement is a job opportunity program, specifically to fill the need for hands on trained lab technicians. For those interested, please contact Kathi Durdon at email@example.com.
To apply to the 2018 Medical Device Innovation Challenge (MDIC) visit www.cnybac.com.