Akron's Bid for Biomed

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The University of Akron’s polymer science and engineering department consistently ranks among the top three in the nation, and city officials hope it will do for Akron what Cleveland Clinic does for Cleveland. Last week Mayor Don Plusquellic announced a new biomedical start-up incubator with an eye toward attracting medical device hopefuls from around the world.

It’s an extension of the Austen BioInnovation Institute, which has been nurturing the ideas of local students and doctors for the past 16 months, says its president and CEO, Frank Douglas.

But why would medical device start-ups peg Akron rather than Cleveland? Collaboration with the university’s polymer expertise, says Douglas. Plus, the Akron incubator will focus only on orthopedic and wound-healing devices.

"It’s been recognized that focused incubators have a higher success rate. This [university] is a major strength and gives us a critical mass of experts that will distinguish us.”

Cleveland-based Medical Mutual of Ohio has committed $1 million to the Akron incubator, and FirstEnergy also plans to pony up. Between $5 and $10 million is needed before the incubator is up and running; Douglas expects that to happen toward the end of 2012.

Akron has a ways to go before reaching the deep pockets of Cleveland Clinic Innovations, which has garnered $450 million in funding and sponsored 35 start-ups. The Clinic welcomes Akron’s incubator, however. “Anything that brings new business to the region is a benefit,” a spokesman says.

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