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Updated: September 19, 2022

UMaine's impact on biomedical innovation: Startups and spin-offs

File Photo / COURTESY of the UNIVERSITY OF MAINE From left: UMaine research team members and Neuright Inc. founders Rosemary Smith, Magdalena Blaszkiewicz and Kristy Townsend.

Innovation in health care is sparking startups and spin-offs out of the University of Maine, where Renee Kelly is vice president for innovation and economic development.

“UMaine is seeing an increase in innovations and startups in biomedical technology,” she says. “Some of that stems from our growing support of research commercialization, but it also is the fruit of seeds planted over the last several years with the creation of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and Engineering and the Biomedical Engineering program. The faculty in that area work closely with students to develop innovations and incorporate engagement with a variety of external collaborators, making it a popular major.”

While Kelly sees great opportunity for biomedical startups to impact society and achieve commercial success, she notes that founders need to get an early handle on the roadmap for bringing a product or service to market. That includes knowing the regulatory pathway, key partners and advocates to help gain acceptance, and the funding needed for each milestone.

UMaine success stories highlighted by Kelly include WAVED Medical, which is focused on early breast cancer detection and profiled in this issue; Neuright, a biotech startup founded by UMaine faculty and a graduate student aimed at improving diagnosis of peripheral neuropathy; and MedRhythms, a Portland-based digital health startup founded and led by UMaine alumni Brian Harris and Owen McCarthy.

File Photo / Jim Neuger
Brian Harris, co-founder and CEO of MedRhythms

To date, MedRhythms has raised around $36 million in funding and currently employs 36 people, with 10 open positions in roles from engineering to clinical trial management.

Harris’s advice to aspiring entrepreneurs: “Stay connected to resources and community here, but don’t limit your ecosystem to just Maine. Maine companies can make a global impact and need to ensure they are capitalizing on opportunities and ecosystems outside the state as well.”

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