Sep 10th, 2012
Mercy R&D Spurs Small Business SBJ 9/7/12
9/7/2012 4:29:00 PM Mercy R&D spurs small business
Southwest Injection Mold works with an out-of-state licensee to bring Safety Shield device to market
Brian Brown Reporter
Mercy Research & Development’s work is moving from the lab to the market.
Armed with a two-year $200,000 grant from the Missouri Technology Corp., Mercy R&D is seeking manufacturers for the products inventors have developed in labs the last three years.
Springfield-based Southwest Injection Mold LLC this summer was selected to manufacture the Safety Shield, one of four Mercy R&D-licensed products. Mercy R&D officials said Southwest Injection Mold produced a prototype for Chatsworth, Calif.-based licensee Ansell Sandel Medical Solutions LLC, and the Springfield company turned the work into a contract for the shield’s first production run of 5,000.
The Safety Shield is designed to protect caregivers from getting stuck with needles.
“Basically, when you hold a vial, you are exposed to getting stuck with a needle if things aren’t just perfect. This shield helps prevent getting stuck,” said Mercy R&D Research Manager Martin Reuter.
Southwest Injection owner Bob Foster said his company received more than $6,000 from Mercy R&D to develop the Safety Shield prototype and $4,800 from Ansell to manufacture the first order of the shields by Sept. 1.
“It almost looks like a little Frisbee. It is a small disc that has an opening with a little hood on it in the middle where you slide these bottles with medicine in them,” Foster said. “The shield pops the cap off in one smooth action.”
Foster said Southwest Injection is capable of producing hundreds of thousands of the pieces, and he is talking with Ansell officials about developing an eight-cavity mold that would reduce production costs nearly 80 percent per unit. The first 5,000 shields were produced with a manual mold for 96 cents per unit, and an automatic eight-cavity mold could produce shields for 20 cents per unit, he said.
With an interest in keeping work local, Reuter contacted Foster to see if Southwest Injection could produce molds for R&D. Foster said the company also has made a mold for medicated contact lenses R&D is developing for the U.S. Department of Defense.
“(Mercy R&D) is turning out to be a good customer. Hopefully, it keeps growing,” Foster said.
Mercy R&D Director Keela Davis said the grant doesn’t fund product development, but it supports the launch to commercialization. The funds will be used to develop databases of entrepreneurs and investors who might be interested in starting firms to manufacture technologies developed in Mercy’s labs, as well as assist companies with accessing investment capital.
“As part of the grant, we have agreed that we will start at least two companies. We have said that we would want to license one of our technologies to an existing Missouri medical device company, and we have said additionally we want to license another product to another Missouri company that currently is not (manufacturing) medical devices, and help it make that transition,” Davis said.
She said no companies or investors had been selected to receive grant funds as of Sept. 3. Davis said Mercy would provide support upfront and receive quarterly reimbursements with the grant funds.
“We are in our data gathering phase. We are just trying to figure who all is out there and what their interests might be. Then we’ll move into the more serious discussions and negotiations of matching entrepreneurs and investors with a particular technology and getting it off the ground,” Davis said.
She said R&D could work with a range of company types or investors, and one company could produce only one specialized product or it may manufacture multiple products that are similar, such as foam positioners designed to reduce surgery times.
While the Safety Shield is the first R&D product to be manufactured by a private Springfield company, it is not the first to be licensed or the first to be produced locally.
Hands First was licensed to Nixa-based Avadim II in August 2010, and it was bottled by Aire-Master of America Inc. in Nixa, Davis said. The other two Mercy R&D-licensed products are the Secure 360 Prone Positioning Device and the Secure Flip Pediatric Dual Positioner. Both products were licensed to Lutz, Fla.-based Soule Medical in July.
Springfield-based Sugar Design Studio Inc. has handled branding work for all four of R&D’s licensed products.
Owner Russ Holland said his daughter attended Springfield Catholic High School with Hands First inventor Dr. Roger Huckfeldt’s daughter, and Holland worked with Huckfeldt on branding before Mercy R&D was formally established in 2007. Holland said he came up with the Hands First name when Huckfeldt and Mercy R&D were looking to market the product.
“The solution was originally called Thera-Works,” Holland said. “They were looking for something a little more marketable, something more recognizable.”
Holland, who has worked in packaging and branding for 25 years and whose experience includes developing the Mother’s Brewing Co. brand, said he has been involved with at least six products for Mercy’s development arm. Though he declined to disclose revenue estimates, Holland called the money earned from branding and packaging as modest and likely less than the Web development work he performed on MercyRND.com.
“It has been nice that (Mercy R&D) has looked to work with somebody in the Springfield area,” Holland said.