Volunteer group begins work on new pediatric medical devices

The volunteer group receives $250,000 in funds from the University.

Raj Chaduvula

Minnesota is known for its robust medical device industry, but some say the market for the state’s youngest patients is still lagging.  
To close the gap between youth and adult markets, a University group has homed in on projects that bolster pediatric medical devices.
The Pediatric Device Innovation Consortium has three projects underway this year: a pediatric valve developed at the University, a software program to help look at scoliosis and a support project for a breathing device used for treating children with pneumonia in Uganda. 
Gwenyth Fischer, an associate professor of pediatrics, founded the group in 2011. The PDIC receives $150,000 per year from the Clinical and Translational Science Institute to fund its projects. The PDIC takes ideas and plans from University researchers and outside entities, and picks three each year to work on.
In addition to this year’s projects, PDIC is working on two others after 
receiving an additional $100,000 in funding. One of the projects is a website that serves as an outreach program, allowing parents and caretakers of children with medical problems to post their needs and any ideas they have for devices.
“Parents and caretakers now have a voice in the pediatric device community,” Fischer said. 
The second project, an industry and inventor collaboration event, will take place in April. The networking event aims to catalyze future projects, Fischer said. 
The group has a 14-member advisory board that includes University faculty and staff and medical industry leaders.
The group started receiving funds from the University in 2014.
“Prior to 2014, the advisory board just gave free feedback and advice to people with questions and ideas,” Fischer said. 
Fischer said one of the main reasons for starting PDIC was because the pediatric medical devices market is 10 years behind the adult medical device market. 
The reason for the fallback is due to the market size, said Joseph Neglia, the head of pediatrics at the University. 
“The number of children who need pediatric devices is smaller compared to the number of adults,” he said. 
Currently, the pediatric devices market is growing faster than before but not nearly fast enough, Neglia said, adding that the Twin Cities is a better market than most areas due to the number of medical companies and research available. 
“There’s more of an opportunity to make a difference here than other areas in the country,” Neglia said. 
One company making such a difference is Devicix, a medical device group working with PDIC to define a program to study sleep in pediatric patients, specifically infants. 
Director of Business Solutions for Devicix and PDIC Board Member William Betten said aside from the issue of economics and profits causing companies to not invest in pediatric devices, clinical trials are prohibitive. FDA regulations and parental conflicts make clinical
trials difficult, he said. 
The group starts by taking an idea and showing its feasibility to investors and companies who then commercialize the product, Betten said. 
“Hopefully, we will serve as a spark [for companies] to start-development and production,” he said.