By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2014, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
Innovation — it’s the life force of entrepreneurship. Without innovation, we would have no new companies. Without new companies, over the long run Oklahoma wouldn’t have net new jobs or new wealth creation.
There’s no formula for creating innovation. It comes about in as many different ways as there are entrepreneurs and new companies.
Innovation is driven by researchers and inventors in laboratories and creative types filling white boards from edge to edge. It’s also driven by experts who, as they perform their jobs every day, ponder better ways of accomplishing their work — experts like Drs. Brent Norris and Paul Stafford, two orthopedic trauma surgeons from Tulsa.
These physicians, one of whom holds an engineering degree, are the founders of Norris Surgical LLC. They have designed and patented an innovative device to improve the repair and recovery of fractured knees as well as fractures in other body locations, including the elbow, shoulder, and hip.
About 50 percent of broken knee caps require surgery. The Norris Surgical fracture plate is intended to address bone fractures more effectively than current systems by improving patient outcomes, reducing patient pain and rehab and recovery time, and lowering re-admissions. Patients, physicians, and hospitals all stand to benefit.
Who better to design an innovative solution that solves real problems for patients and physicians than trauma surgeons who routinely deal with smashed bones and mangled tissue?
But while designing and patenting the new fracture plate is a huge milestone, it’s only the first part of the battle. Time to market is a huge challenge for medical devices.
There are regulatory approvals and specialized manufacturing requirements. There’s the steep curve to gain physician acceptance; doctors want to see, touch, and test any new device before they will commit to using it. And then there’s the question of how to reach those doctors, without burning through the time and expense that it takes to create an in-house sales team.
And that’s the next cool thing about Norris.
The company has mapped an efficient path through the FDA 510K clearance process, plans to outsource manufacturing to an experienced source, and is engaged with an established distributor who has relationships with the doctors Norris hopes to serve.
We hear all the time about how long it takes to bring innovation in the medical field to the market. It is challenging, of that there is no doubt.
But there are ways to accelerate milestones. We’ve been building that know-how in Oklahoma for some time. It’s starting to bear fruit.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.