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ILP Institute Insider

December 12, 2013

Expediting Innovation

Brian Anthony accelerates the realization of innovative medical electronic devices and other products through research and education.

Alice McCarthy

About 5 years ago, Brian Anthony and colleagues proposed a new research center as part of MIT’s ongoing Singapore Alliance. Together with MIT’s Charles Sodini and Joel Voldman, Anthony worked to better connect industry and academia to create new electronic medical devices. “We wanted to work in the areas of product design, manufacturing and operations with an eye toward improving the way medical electronic devices are manufactured and brought to market,” Anthony explains. Three years ago, these founding ideas led to the creation of the Medical Electronic Device Realization Center (MEDRC) at MIT.

Brian Anthony
Co-Director, MIT MEDRC
Director, MEngM Program
Transforming the medical electronic devices industry
Anthony, Sodini and Voldman established the MEDRC to investigate the areas of medical devices that intersect with microelectronics, computation or data to transform medical electronic device industries. MEDRC is intended to serve as a focal point for large business, venture-funded startups, and the medical community. Acting as such an intersection, their primary focus is creating prototype devices and intellectual property, and serving as the catalyst for the deployment of innovative health care technology that will reduce costs in both the developed and developing world. To those ends, they’ve identified several areas of focus: wearable devices, minimally invasive monitoring devices, medical imaging, point-of-care instrumentation, and data communication.

Throughout its history, the semiconductor industry has driven down costs in products like watches, computers and calculators. Medical devices represent a growth opportunity. “The goal is to develop technology that gets technology out of the hospital clinic and into the home while driving down cost, improving quality and enabling a more patient-centric healthcare ecosystem,” says Anthony. This is the mission MEDRC hopes to achieve by merging the expertise from analog device companies like Texas Instrument and Maxim Integrated with medical electronic device companies like GE, Siemens and Phillips.

Sponsored research is at the heart of MEDRC’s activities. GE, Analog Devices, and Maxim Integrated have already established sponsored research relationships with the center with several more companies in the pipeline. Participating companies provide research funds but what really makes the program a success in Anthony’s opinion is that each company is required to send a visiting scientist to MIT for a 3-year period to be significantly involved in the research. “At the end of the 3-year collaboration, the sponsoring company has somebody that has been intimately involved from the beginning of the project all the while maintaining the perspective of that company and acting as an advisor to the students,” he says. “That industry visiting scientist helps keep us on track understanding the company and industry perspective.”

Anthony’s background lends itself well to straddling the industry/academia relationship. “Both at the MEDRC and some of the other activities that I’m involved in, I bring a perspective of knowing the language and drivers of both sides,” he says.

By training, he is a mechanical engineer computer scientist who earned his PhD at MIT. Afterward, he went on to establish a few start-up companies, like Xcitex, Inc. whose technology led to Anthony earning an Emmy Award in broadcast technical innovation.

Educational lead at Skoltech
Anthony returned to MIT in 2006 to lead the Master of Engineering in Manufacturing Program (MEngM), a one-year professional degree program focused on product realization. “It is not a degree in logistics or product design,” he explains. Instead, it provides students with a larger perspective, tying the entire commercialization product development process together. Students take eight classes and do a company-based project. Since its second year, Anthony has been building the educational program and establishing relationships with participating companies.

Because of his roles in the MEngM program and at MEDRC, Anthony was tapped to be the lead for education at the new MIT/Russian private graduate research university, Skoltech Institute of Science and Technology, established in 2011. The university’s aim is to catalyze research, teaching and innovation around pressing global issues. “One of the unique aspects of Skoltech is that they firmly embrace research, education and entrepreneurship in innovation — a more robust connection with industry in the commercialization process at all scales,” says Anthony, who is developing the masters and doctoral levels programs in the areas of energy, IT, space, nuclear science, and biomedicine.

Innovative Manufacturing Institute
Going forward, Anthony is again pulling colleagues and ideas together in the hopes of creating a new innovative manufacturing center. In 2011, President Obama announced the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, a national effort bringing together industry, universities, and the federal government to invest in IT, biotechnology, and nanotechnology and help U.S. manufacturers reduce costs, improve quality, and accelerate product development. Out of that developed a proposal to create the National Network of Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI). Through Anthony, MIT is now putting together a concept paper to create a regional Innovative Manufacturing Institute (IMI) in New England which would be one node of the NNMI. “We are looking to create a digital manufacturing innovation institute, looking at how to better connect data, models and simulations used in product design to all areas of manufacturing,” he says. The idea is to better integrate design, building and operations to reduce the time to get from product design to product. MIT is one of several big players in this project and is leading the technical vision of this $70 million proposal to build an IMI in New England.