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Health IT Innovation Lab Gets $5M Grant from Mass. Government

April 19, 2017
by Rajiv Leventhal
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MassTech’s collaborative research and development matching grant program is awarding $5 million to support the launch of a healthcare research and product development initiative at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI).

The news last week came from Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito; the governor’s office announced a $5 million matching grant via the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MassTech). The award will match contributions from WPI and private sector stakeholders, including GE Healthcare Life Sciences, and fund new integrated research and development labs focused on the commercialization of secure healthcare devices and systems, according to officials. The project is called PracticePoint at WPI.

Located at Gateway Park at WPI in Worcester, Mass., the PracticePoint facility will aim to provide simulated healthcare settings and integrate them with advanced research and development infrastructure, enabling companies large and small to test and evolve their technologies. Multidisciplinary academic and industry teams will also conduct pre-competitive research at PracticePoint. The center will further offer a range of educational and training opportunities for workforce development to support the growing digital health industry in Massachusetts, which already has over 350 companies.

PracticePoint at WPI will focus on the development of cyber-physical healthcare systems and products, which could include any device that intelligently interacts with people or things, such as robotic diagnostic tools, image-guided surgical robots, sensor-enabled and personalized therapeutics, smart rehabilitation devices, smart orthoses and prosthetics, or home healthcare proxy devices. These smart and secure devices can help improve surgical procedures, rehabilitative care, and independent living, while ultimately enabling highly personalized precision therapies, procedures, and diagnostics to deliver truly personalized care.

Specifically, the center will feature four settings—surgical, clinical, rehabilitative, and home healthcare— in a single research and development facility. The goal is to accelerate digital health product development cycles by providing rapid point-of-practice testing that co-locates healthcare practitioners and technical teams, advanced manufacturing infrastructure, and testing technologies, while integrating data analytics and equipment to test technologies for cybersecurity vulnerabilities, according to officials.

The Commonwealth’s investment in PracticePoint will be matched by nearly $9.5 million in funds from WPI, as well as $2.5 million from GE Healthcare Life Sciences in both capital investments and imaging equipment. The Commonwealth’s participation in PracticePoint at WPI advances the Massachusetts Digital Health Initiative, a statewide public-private economic development partnership the Baker-Polito Administration launched in January 2016.

“PracticePoint at WPI will help ensure Massachusetts continues as a global leader in digital healthcare and the innovation economy,” Governor Baker said in a statement. “Along with our administration’s existing investments in advanced materials, smart devices, data and cyber security, this new public-private research and development partnership will deliver new advancements that create jobs and improve the lives of patients across the globe.”

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