Health Care & Insurance  March 1, 2022

Region shows rich mix of health care innovations

When medical-device manufacturer Medtronic consolidates some of its Louisville and Gunbarrel activities into a new campus in Lafayette late this year, it will mark another milestone in the region’s growing role in health care innovation.

From ventilators that have been in high demand during the COVID-19 pandemic to robotic surgical devices, prosthetic limbs, diagnostic tools and even tracking viruses in wastewater, companies in the Boulder Valley and Northern Colorado are producing life-saving solutions that also generate economy-boosting jobs.

Medtronic (NYSE: MDT), which just earned a lofty spot on Fortune magazine’s “Most Admired Companies” list, is building a 400,000-square-foot laboratory and office complex spanning two five-story buildings near U.S. Highway 287 and Dillon Road, where around 1,100 employees will work on some of the Dublin, Ireland-based corporation’s health care devices including ventilators, brain and spinal implants, tiny pacemakers and more.

Already this year, the company has received two major product approvals from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In January, the FDA approved two Medtronic devices for spinal-cord stimulation therapy for treating chronic pain resulting from diabetic peripheral neuropathy. And in mid-February, Medtronic won expanded approval for its Freezor and Freezor Xtra catheters for pediatric treatment of a common, life-threatening heart rhythm condition; the flexible, single-use devices freeze cardiac tissue and block unnecessary electrical signals within the heart.

The company also is touting Hugo, its robotic-assisted surgery system, targeting urologic and gynecologic procedures. The system is first being marketed in Europe, where only about 2% of surgeries are performed robotically, but eventually will come to the United States after FDA approval expected this year. Hugo has a surgeon console and cart-mounted independent robotic arms that mainly are used to hold surgical instruments and are designed to mimic the movements of a surgeon’s hands at the console.

Meanwhile, Bolder Surgical in Louisville, which is being acquired by Marlborough, Massachusetts-based Hologic Inc. (Nasdaq: HOLX), makes tools for sealing blood vessels as well as devices for other surgical procedures. It was founded as JustRight Surgical LLC in 2010, focusing on pediatric patients, but rebranded in 2019 to broaden its approach. Hologic focuses on early detection and treatment in women’s health in diagnostics, surgical and medical imaging products. As of two years ago, its robotic surgical tools were in use in more than 200 hospitals across the United States.

Wolf Robotics in Fort Collins builds parts and robotic systems for medical equipment manufacturers, and has grown to be one of the largest general-manufacturing robot integrators in North America with more than 8,500 robot system installations around the world.

Boulder-based Encision Inc., founded in 1991, has developed a line of instruments for laparoscopic surgery that eliminate the risk of energy burns. Invitae, founded in Boulder in 2013, develops tests that detect genetic variations associated with cancers and inherited disease.

Windsor-based Quorum Prosthetics, a 23-year-old company that has been a BizWest Innovation Quotient Awards honoree, builds custom made, 3D-printed prosthetic sockets that are easier for the wearer to put on and remove. Its founder and owner, Joe Johnson, knows how important a well-fitting prosthetic device is, since he wears a prosthetic leg below his knee following an accident that led to an amputation.

The COVID-19 pandemic provided an opportunity for Fort Collins-based GT Molecular, which was created in 2018 to develop molecular detection technology for cancer research, to focus those tools on the detection of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater three times faster than previous methods, allowing public-health officials to take faster action in addressing surges of the virus.

Boulder-based Aspero Medical, spun off from research at the University of Colorado Boulder and a finalist for BizWest’s IQ Award for life sciences, used Small Business Innovation Research grants to develop devices including an endoscopic balloon with more grip and a solution it says will transition more than 15% of incomplete colonoscopies to fully screened procedures at a fraction of the cost of a colonoscopy.

Longmont-based LumenAstra Inc. also is partnering with CU researchers to develop an accurate, wearable, non-invasive device for measurement of internal body temperatures. In her Radio Frequency Lab at the university, Dr. Zoya Popovic and her students adapted technologies usually used to measure the temperature of stars thousands of light years away and turned it into a way to look deep into the human body.

An IQ Award winner for most innovative health-care product in 2017, Louisville-based Eximis Surgical has tested the performance of its surgical devices with the aid of grants it got with the help of technology incubator Innosphere, which guided it through the grant-application steps and introduced the company to key individuals at Colorado State University and UCHealth’s Northern Colorado research department.

With Innosphere’s help, even more locally produced health-care innovation is on the way. 

Innosphere Ventures, the Colorado BioScience Association and Colorado BioScience Institute are launching a new program to grow life-sciences startups with support from the state of Colorado’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade. That program joins Ascent, a new accelerator for deep-tech startups from Venture Partners at CU Boulder.

When medical-device manufacturer Medtronic consolidates some of its Louisville and Gunbarrel activities into a new campus in Lafayette late this year, it will mark another milestone in the region’s growing role in health care innovation.

From ventilators that have been in high demand during the COVID-19 pandemic to robotic surgical devices, prosthetic limbs, diagnostic tools and even tracking viruses in wastewater, companies in the Boulder Valley and Northern Colorado are producing life-saving solutions that also generate economy-boosting jobs.

Medtronic (NYSE: MDT), which just earned a lofty spot on Fortune magazine’s “Most Admired Companies” list, is building a 400,000-square-foot laboratory and office complex…

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