MedMates grew up out of a simple premise: Put enough health-tech industry members in a room together, and innovation will take care of itself.
“The capacity was always there, the participants were always there, but there was no net, no association that brought them together on a regular basis and created a forum for dialogue and networking,” said Stephen Lane, co-founder and chief venture officer of Providence-based Ximedica, who founded MedMates with Woonsocket-based Aspiera Medical Director David Goldsmith. “We were creating an environment where folks who wouldn’t have previously been in the same room were able to seek each other out.”
Conceived during the Rhode Island Foundation’s inaugural Make It Happen Rhode Island brainstorming session in September 2012, MedMates is the state’s first group for networking and advocacy in health technology not exclusive to a specific subsector, such as medical devices or bioscience. Fifty people attended the first exploratory meeting in January 2013, and the group officially launched in April after securing a $50,000 Rhode Island Foundation grant.
A year later, MedMates boasts 410 members, most of them from within Rhode Island. MedMates’ members span every sector of health technology, including biotech, health IT, medical devices and pharmacy, and they bring a diverse range of professional experience as CEOs, investors, researchers and entrepreneurs. Membership isn’t exclusive to the private sector, either – the group also welcomes academic representatives like Katherine Gordon, managing director of Brown University’s Technology Ventures Office, and government liaisons like Christine Smith, executive director of the R.I. Science and Technology Advisory Council.
In its first year, MedMates’ cross-sector approach already has borne fruit. Before David Goldsmith met Paul Hayre, co-founder and president of Wellesley, Mass.-based Sano LLC, at the MedMates “For the Love of Entrepreneurship” event on Feb. 27, their two companies had already unknowingly collaborated on a medical study at a Pennsylvania hospital testing the efficacy of Aspiera’s Terrasil wound-care and antiseptic ointment and Sano’s chronic-wound diagnostic platform.