By Jim Stafford
Copyright © 2014,The Oklahoma Publishing Company
For more than two decades, Dr. David Albert has pursued invention as a vocation, turning groundbreaking health care technologies into commercial ventures along the way as a serial entrepreneur.
Yet, on this day in late October as he sits in a conference room at the University Research Park, his attention is focused on Oklahoma’s energy industry and the economic benefits it has brought the state.
“I’m nothing if not optimistic about the entrepreneurial climate here,” Albert says. “We’ve had this amazing growth in the last 20 years with the Oklahoma City energy business, and now that is acknowledged by General Electric, which is building its global R&D center right here. Right here!”
The room in which Albert sits is less than a five-iron shot from the $110 million GE Global Research Oil & Gas Technology Center, which is under construction on the western fringe of the Oklahoma Health Center campus.
“They are going to build this amazing facility and have Ph.D.s and other smart people working there,” he said. “I used to work at GE labs, and I can tell you, these will be world-class scientists and engineers.”
Two decades ago, Albert invented a wireless device that let health care professionals remotely monitor the vital signs of their patients. A cardiologist by training, he built a company around the technology and sold it to – you guessed it – General Electric.
“I started Data Critical in 1994, and we probably had our first million-dollar year in 1997, and we went public in 1999 with $20 million in revenue,” Albert said. “General Electric bought us in 2001 when we had $30 million in revenue, and I can tell you that a couple years ago that business line was $250 million in revenue for GE.”
After selling his company to GE, Albert served as Chief Scientist of GE Cardiology until 2004. He returned to Oklahoma City after leaving GE to invent new technologies and start companies to market those inventions.
InnovAlarm was founded in 2004 to commercialize a low-frequency wireless fire alarm invented in the basement of his home. Albert co-founded AliveCor in 2011 as a mobile heart monitor that exploits capabilities of smart phones.
“Dr. Dave is a physician by training, but truly an inventor at heart,” said MacKenzie Ward, co-founder of Tulsa-based OwlPal, which is built around intellectual property owned by Albert.
“I consider him the father of digital health, as his inventions such as AliveCor were among the first to truly challenge the market at the intersection of health care and technology.”
Today, AliveCor has sold thousands of its mobile heart monitors and has yet to tap into large potential markets around the world in areas such as China, South America and Africa. And with 24 issued U.S. patents in its portfolio, InnovAlarm is poised to claim a sizable share of the smart home market, possibly with a major partner already in that space.
The father of digital health turned his attention back to GE’s energy research center for a moment.
“This to me is a great testimony to what the modern energy entrepreneurship climate is,” he said. “You are going to have energy entrepreneurs spinning out, and they won’t be the old fashioned, ‘I’m-going-to-go-drill-an-oil-well’ kind of people. The energy business is a technology driven business, whether it’s seismic, horizontal drilling or monitoring. And those businesses will spawn a lot of entrepreneurs.”
“Like the health care business, they aren’t going away.”
Jim Stafford writes about the state’s life sciences industry on behalf of the Oklahoma Bioscience Association.