For this edition of Ask An Expert we spoke with Win Thurlow, Executive Director of the MedTech Association. In this role, he sets the agenda for the Syracuse-based trade organization and works to carry out its mission of growing the life sciences industry in New York State.
“I think the most important thing to know about MedTech is that we serve as a connector between various segments of the industry. So, for folks that are out there, whether in medical manufacturing or not, they should come to us to find ways to connect with the state’s biomed industry.” -Win Thurlow, MedTech Association
Tell us about MedTech, its members and its mission.
Medtech is New York’s trade association for the biomed industry. Our membership encompasses the life sciences as it relates to healthcare. That means primarily medical device and pharmaceutical companies but also companies in a range of different areas related to healthcare. Our members also include folks that I think of as “biomed adjacent,” companies and firms that work with the industry such as contract manufacturers, testing labs, consultants, and professional services. We really take a holistic approach to the industry.
In addition to companies, we also are an association of universities and academic research institutions, where we help foster commercialization and tech transfer activities.
Our goal is to strengthen manufacturing in life sciences in all corners of the state and to grow the biomed industry. We do that in 3 primary ways: we serve as a platform for networking and business development, we provide education, and we advocate on behalf of the industry.
Can you give us a brief overview of the biomed ecosphere in the state?
New York has a growing biomed industry that employs over 25,000 people in fields across the industry. Many large pharmaceutical companies have a presence or a headquarters in New York City, while the rest of the state, particularly upstate, is really a stronghold for med device manufacturing and innovation.
How has New York’s life sciences industry responded to the COVID-19 pandemic?
The pandemic has been a time of both great innovation and terrific collaboration between and among our members. Our folks are involved in the testing and diagnosis of COVID and also its treatment, as well as in the manufacturing of personal protective equipment and other things related to the pandemic.
In the early days of the pandemic, one of the things that was of critical importance to our members was the ability to collaborate and really come together to help identify sources of materials and equipment in the fight against the pandemic. The supply chain was disrupted and our ability to continue to operate under really difficult situations put the industry through a test. But as the pandemic has progressed, many of our members, even those who hadn’t previously been involved in the diagnoses or treatment of COVID, have found opportunities to be integral in looking for those treatments and cures.
Outside of COVID, what is the biggest challenge the industry faces?
Without a doubt, the No. 1 challenge facing our members is the ability to ensure a strong and sustainable workforce. Many of our members are located in more rural parts of the state and the ability to attract, recruit, and retain a high-quality workforce is a problem that we as an organization have been focused on. We have been working with partners across to the state to try to develop programs and policies to strengthen New York’s workforce.
On the positive side, we in New York are blessed with a uniquely strong workforce in terms of educational background. This allows New York to be more flexible and nimbler in the large universe of medical device and pharma development. This simply wouldn’t be possible in other parts of the country that don’t have the network of universities and other programs that we have in New York.
How does MedTech work with FuzeHub, NYSTAR and other New York assets?
I have been particularly proud of the partnerships that we have been able to forge with NYSTAR, with the folks at Empire State Development, and across the network of programs here in New York for companies. We recently partnered with FuzeHub to present a program on manufacturing in the medical field for companies that are not currently in that area. Plus, our members benefit greatly from access to the array of programs sponsored by NYSTAR, such as the Centers for Advanced Technology and Innovation Hot Spots, that are designed to help companies large and small, established and emerging, develop the skills and resources they need to succeed.
What do non-biomed companies need to know about MedTech?
I think the most important thing to know about MedTech is that we serve as a connector between various segments of the industry. So, for folks that are out there, whether in medical manufacturing or not, they should come to us to find ways to connect with the state’s biomed industry. It is an area of tremendous opportunity and growth, particularly in this day and age of looking to create resiliency and a domestic approach to supply chain development. The ability to connect with the large biomed industry in New York, in this region and across the world happens best here in NY and we are always looking for opportunities to bring various players together.