The fourth piece in our series on millennial CEOs and their medtech companies, features long-time medtech developer Max Mendez and his R&D group, who are making the way for a medical device market in Florida
For as long as I can remember, I wanted to start a company, generate products, innovate, and create inventions,’ explains Max Mendez, co-founder of Miami MedTech, a medical device research and development company offering a platform for doctors and surgeons who want to turn their ideas into marketable products. ‘In the current environment of accelerators, incubators, meet-up groups, and innovation, I think there hasn’t been a better time for entrepreneurship.’
Mendez founded Miami MedTech in 2015 with his partner, practicing interventional cardiologist, Dr Pedro Martinez-Clark. Their goal was to create an organisation that could foster the creation of medical device startups in Florida. ‘R&D operations are common in other parts of the US and internationally, but are really non-existent in South Florida and our region, which includes the Southeast US, and South and Central America.’
As such, Miami MedTech is the first medtech incubator in Florida, supporting both local and international physicians who otherwise might have to go further afield to find aid for developing their ideas into medical technology. Martinez-Clark also founded the clinical research organisation, Interventional Concepts Inc in 2010 with the aim to help startups conduct clinical trials in Colombia. This background in giving startups clinical advice, along with his experience as a cardiologist, made him the perfect match as a partner for Mendez, who has a history in product development, engineering and innovation. ‘Our expertise compliments each other,’ Mendez says.
Mendez has worked in the medical device field of R&D for over 10 years, starting in high school when he participated in a robotics program and was mentored by Kevin Smith, President and CEO of Syntheon LLC, a medtech company focused on product development and manufacturing based in Miami. ‘I had an amazing opportunity early on to meet Smith, who was a pioneer in startups and spin-offs from larger medical device companies in the mid-1980s.’
Smith, who passed away last year, was the principal engineer at CORDIS in the 80s before spinning off from the corporation to develop his own products. He and a friend founded Symbiosis Inc, which was later acquired, and went on to develop more medical device companies after Smith’s group focused on disruptive technology in the medical device field, before partnering up with more establish companies by way of acquisition or licensing to commercialise the devices.
Being a part of this group from a young age, Mendez had the advantage of gaining hands-on experience through speedy projects, including cordless electrosurgical instruments, transcatheter heart valves, and stents. ‘It was a great experience that allowed me to gain skills in the full range of engineering disciplines involved with innovation and medical devices.’
After eight years with the group, Mendez partnered with Martinez-Clark on their TransCaval Solutions project. From there, the two founded Miami MedTech in 2015.
The Miami MedTech lab is located on the main campus of Florida International University. Mendez appreciates this close relationship with the college. ‘We wanted to promote and encourage other students who may have an interest in engineering, but are not exposed to the medical innovation field.’
He hopes that the lab’s close proximity to engineering students can offer an introduction to medtech that might inspire them. ‘They might want to come check out a crazy prototype we’re working on and it might spark something in them. And if we can help them identify their professional purpose, if we can make that impact, that’s amazing. That’s one of the things we’re here for.’
In addition, the South Florida investment community is showing great deal of interest in Miami MedTech, including initiatives to educate local investors on new technologies. ‘It does take quite a bit of educating the investor about the business opportunity and the turn around of the investment,’ says Mendez, ‘We see an incredible need here in South Florida for comprehensive healthcare innovation and medical device development.’
Along with supporting local and international physicians looking for development help on their projects, Miami MedTech also has several internal projects, including TransCaval Solution that was the catalyst for Mendez and Martinez-Clark working together. ‘We’re developing a device that will allow access of large catheter devices in the arterial system in the 30 per cent of the patient population that can’t receive minimally invasive catheters.’
For now, Miami MedTech’s TransCaval Solutions Project is the main focus as Mendez and the team begin to develop prototypes. They are concentrating their attentions on simulated clinical testing, as well as raising the next round of funding for their first clinical trial. The group is also starting to develop neuro devices to improve stroke care and holographic clinical applications using the Microsoft HoloLens.
In the coming years, Mendez hopes that Miami MedTech will take part in improving the efficiency of the innovation process, ‘We want to shorten the time it takes between taking our impactful ideas, or the ideas of a physician, nurse, or clinical professional out there, and bringing that innovation to the end patient who receives the benefits.’
Even now they are actively working on making this possible – through improving internal infrastructure, funding, outreach, and an educational component. ‘I envision all of these things coming together 10 years from now and this being a faster, more efficient process that’ll allow the patient to receive the benefits of some amazing technologies, much more quickly than how it currently happens.’
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