ARMI Summit: Get outside your comfort zone
By MICHAEL COUSINEAU
New Hampshire Union Leader
MANCHESTER — More than 200 people from around the country were told Thursday to leave their comfort zones and band together to develop a commercial process to produce human tissue to help sick people.
“Talk to someone different and understand what that framework could really bring,” said Michael Hill, an executive at Medtronic, a medical technology company based in Ireland.
“Diversity is what drives that innovation,” Hill told members of the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute. “Innovation is a team sport. We have to partner collectively to be able to accomplish this.”
ARMI has gathered about $294 million in government and private investment.
“I realize this is early in the process,” said inventor Dean Kamen, who spearheaded getting ARMI located in the Millyard. “This is the first time many of you are meeting each other, and as I’ve said, the fact that you may be confused or uncomfortable proves we’re probably on the right path.”
The two-day summit attracted a cross section of people, including scientists, educators, business people and Department of Defense employees.
“At the very least, while we won’t have a lot of answers, we can get better defined questions and connect people to each other to help create those solutions,” Kamen said at ARMI’s headquarters at 400 Commercial St.
Panelist Sumona Sarkar, a biomedical engineer at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, said participants can make a big impact on science.
“In this room at the stage where we are in this field, we are not necessarily only the users of standards,” Sarkar said. “We are the developer of standards, so in this room you guys are the experts that help us develop the standards for this field for generations to come.”
ARMI has approved nine “quick start” programs to show advancements on the path to commercial production. Pharmaceutical giant Merck, for instance, is doing work on advanced 3D liver models for drug development applications.
Kamen recently said by the end of two years, he would like to have some technologies advanced enough to be working with the Food and Drug Administration to do clinical trials.
Tom Bollenbach, ARMI’s chief technology officer, said participants need to be “thinking more boldly and more disruptively about how we think about processes.”
“Tissue engineering is still a promise for patients as it was back in the ‘90s,” he said. “What does the future look like? It’s automated.”
Kentucky-based Advanced Solutions this week signed a five-year lease to rent 3,000 square feet at 500 Commercial St. CEO Michael Golway said he hopes to employ a dozen people in the Millyard by year’s end and someday license the company’s micro-vessel technology to ARMI partners.
Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., is in the process of joining ARMI, and having a clearing house “just accelerates the pace of innovation,” said Lawrence Bonassar, a professor in the Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering/Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.
In the end, Medtronic’s Hill said: “Committing to improving patient lives is at the center of, I think, everyone in this room’s core mission of what we’re trying to accomplish.”