April 23, 2019

Innovation is Personal: Cleveland Clinic Alliance Spurs Med Advances

By Annie Cashman

Last year, a close family member was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The diagnosis was shocking to me, especially given the high mortality rate generally associated with this type of cancer. Fortunately, the story has a happy ending. A year later, she is cancer free, thanks to an innovative, lifesaving procedure that wasn’t available not that long ago.

My family member’s story is a dramatic reminder of the amazing medical innovations that have occurred in the nearly 10 years I’ve worked in the medical manufacturing industry. I’ve had a front-row seat to some of the most groundbreaking technologies of the past decade.

The Cool Idea Healthcare Grant
The Cool Idea Award: Healthcare Grant is open to members of the Cleveland Clinic Healthcare Innovations Alliance, a network of healthcare institutions and corporations focused on innovation.

For example, I worked for a company that was among the first to bring laparoscopic procedures to surgeons, helping that company launch devices that allow physicians to perform minimally invasive procedures, sometimes through a single incision.

In the case of my family member, a laparoscopic method of the Whipple procedure was used. The Whipple procedure treats tumors and other disorders of the pancreas, intestine, and bile duct. I remember praying for the doctor as he worked on her abdomen through five incisions that were each about the size of a dime for 14 hours. That’s right, 14 hours! Having worked on the sales and business development side of the medical sector, the most comforting thought to me was thank goodness this wasn’t five to 10 years ago. And indeed, as mentioned, my family member is now cancer free. So, for me, innovation is personal.

Protolabs and Cleveland Clinic Innovations

During my career I’ve been privileged to be a small part of a sector that helps improve patient outcomes and saves lives. That’s why it’s gratifying to continue this medical-related work in my role at Protolabs, which works closely with a variety of health care companies worldwide, from medtech startups to established OEMs, to bring innovative products to market that help physicians, nurses, and other clinicians carry on their vital work.

By supplying prototype parts and on-demand manufacturing through a suite of services that include industrial-grade 3D printing (additive manufacturing), CNC machining, sheet metal fabrication, and injection molding, Protolabs supports medtech innovators from early product development to market launch and beyond.

Along these lines, I’m pleased to announce that we are officially establishing a new grant program offered by Cleveland Clinic Innovations and Protolabs to help advance medical industry innovation. It will provide funding and on-demand manufacturing services to med device and medtech companies working to turn their ideas into real-world products and services.

The Cool Idea Award: Healthcare Grant is an extension of Protolabs’ flagship Cool Idea Award and is open to members of the Cleveland Clinic Healthcare Innovations Alliance, a network of healthcare institutions and corporations focused on innovation. Selected winners will be awarded in-kind manufacturing services from Protolabs to support product development, such as building prototypes or supporting initial production runs, and eventual commercialization of products.

Recipients of the healthcare grant program will be chosen twice a year with judges made up of Cleveland Clinic Innovations and Protolabs representatives. Current members of the Innovations Alliance include Parker Hannifin, MedStar Health, the Innovation Institute, SABIC, Avera Health, and Bon Secours Health System, among others.

The medical industry makes up one of Protolabs’ largest segments of customers, so for us, as our CEO Vicki Holt recently said about the grant, “This partnership is a natural fit.”

Given my family member’s story, this commitment to innovation is especially personal. It means our company, in collaboration with Cleveland Clinic Innovations, will continue to make an important impact on the medical sector. We now have another opportunity to help our medical colleagues, indeed another way to accelerate innovation and contribute to positive patient outcomes, just like the outcome of my family member.

Annie Cashman is the global segment manager for the medical industry at Protolabs. Cashman’s industry expertise provides insight for Protolabs and its range of medical customers developing products and devices. She understands the entire process of manufacturing a medical device from its infancy to end use, and is passionate about driving positive outcomes for customers. Cashman previously worked for Nordson Medical, and also has held sales positions at Covidien (now Medtronic) and St. Jude Medical.