By Rhonda Miller
PBN Staff Writer
Dean Tulumaris president and CEO of Warwick-based Biomedical Structures, a provider of customized biomedical textile solutions for implants and other medical device applications in orthopedics, cardiology, regenerative medicine and general surgery. Tulumaris has more than 20 years of experience in operational management and strategic development, including more than a decade in the medical device industry. Before joining BMS in 2011, he was president of Memry Corp., a manufacturer of medical components that was acquired for $78 million. Tulumaris is certified in inventory and production management by the Association for Operations Management and has bachelor’s degree in business and an MBA from Lewis University.
PBN: Over the past two years, your company, Biomedical Structures, has acquired Rhode Island medical textile manufacturer Concordia Medical and merged with Modified Polymer Components, a California-based, medical-grade polymer component manufacturer. How did you calculate your strategy for taking on these major financial ventures?
TULUMARIS: In 2010 we received a capital investment and proceeded to develop a strategic plan that included very ambitious growth goals for the future. We knew from the beginning that we would have to be very smart about asset investments and acquisition aspirations, but M&A has always been a key part of our long-term strategy. No matter what level the financial investment, activities like these always involve a certain amount of calculated risk. In terms of technology, for example, we require some very sophisticated items to produce the precise medical textiles that our customers demand. And you need this sophisticated equipment to get the business, but you don’t want to invest in the equipment without the business. It’s always a tricky line to walk, and we’ve worked hard to give ourselves the best chance to sustain the growth that allows us to make these kinds of financial moves from a solid position.
PBN: When BMS acquired Concordia in 2011, the Rhode Island economy was struggling to work its way out of the recession and the company pledged to its employees and Concordia’s that there would be no layoffs as a result of the deal. How have you managed that, financially?
TULUMARIS: We did promise not to make any layoffs and we have been able to not only keep that promise, but also to continue to grow. From the beginning, the deal made perfect sense from every angle – technology, customers, location. And we’ve been able to capitalize on that synergy because we’ve kept adding new capabilities, customers and services. We’ve had some of our best quarters ever since the acquisition and we are still expanding our facilities. After the capital investment in 2010, we developed a fairly aggressive growth plan that we have continued to execute against. In addition to our original Warwick facility, we added another location in 2011 and have just recently expanded these new headquarters out even further. We are also investing in technology, which includes adding cleanrooms and increasing our manufacturing capacity to keep up with customer demand. Financially, it’s worked because the market is robust, we focus on servicing our customers with the high-quality product they’re looking for, and we’ve made investments in the right places to prepare ourselves as best we can to continue to deliver it.
PBN: At what point did you decide to proceed with your merger with Modified Polymer Components in California? Is it a positive development, as far as cash flow, or a stretch, in addition to your Rhode Island location? What advice do you have for Rhode Island companies that might be considering some type of partnership with a West Coast company?
TULUMARIS: The merger with Modified Polymer Components has been an overwhelmingly positive one thus far. MPC has deep relationships in the medical device space just as we do, so it’s really a matter of trying to figure out how to deliver a more comprehensive solution to customers to our mutual benefit. MPC’s capabilities in custom design and manufacturing of plastic components is a natural complement to our material expertise, and we’ve done a lot of work already to bring the California team up to speed and begin integration at the operational level. As the market continues to transition, we are finding that manufacturers are increasingly looking to more inclusive outsourcing providers that can offer a range of component solutions. Alongside our biomaterial capabilities, MPC’s core competencies in plastic are the next piece of the puzzle, and we will continue to expand our capabilities with the aim of building a full-service, world-class supplier to the medical industry.
Companies looking to expand with a west coast presence really have to consider why they want it: is there room for growth that will be helped with physical facilities there? What will the company you are pursuing bring to the table? If it is just the California location and nothing else, you have to be very careful. For us, California has a very large medical presence - many of the biggest original equipment manufactuers have multiple facilities there. That being said, it is beneficial to have a presence near our customers’ R&D and engineering centers, but ultimately, it is the company’s technology that will make it a valuable target.
PBN: How do you see companies like Biomedical Structures fitting into Rhode Island’s long-term plan for future growth? Do you see your financial future in the Ocean State as positive? Are there developments in the state, or in its business climate, that are advantageous for you company?
TULUMARIS: We’ve had a really positive experience in Rhode Island thus far. We are continuing to grow our Rhode Island facilities all the time and are committed to expanding here. The textile manufacturing heritage here is really something special and we are proud to be part of the evolving manufacturing climate, the shift toward high-value, high-tech manufacturing that can be an important part of Rhode Island’s economic future. At BMS, what we do combines the engineering expertise and precision manufacturing that can become a signature for the state – Rhode Island has all the tools, but we need to make sure they are used the right way. For us, the close proximity to the Boston area and its plethora of medical device OEMs is also critical. In Rhode Island, we can get to Boston and the New York/New Jersey area so quickly, and this easy access is really important. It allows us to bring customers to our facilities and really show them the value we can provide. That kind of demonstration is always our best sales tool. If we can get them inside, our cleanrooms speak for themselves.
PBN: You recently announced a technology partnership with TissueGen, Inc., a developer of implantable drug delivery technology. What kinds of things do you look for in an industry partner? Your company is expanding rapidly. Are you growing at a comfortable rate that keeps the bottom stable or improving?
TULUMARIS: It’s so hard to pinpoint specific characteristics, because many of our partners are very different. The medical device space is always changing, and with healthcare reform now on its way, manufacturers are scrambling more than ever to find new and innovative solutions that will deliver better outcomes at a reduced cost - and in the case of implants, fewer revisions. We have to meet these demands, too, to make sure we are consistently delivering advanced solutions at the component level. The great part is that so many manufacturers have still only scratched the surface in terms of what textiles can bring to implant applications, so our expertise is in high demand. But when we look for partners, it is all about the technology value-add they can bring. TissueGen is a special case, because its extrusion technology is truly state-of-the-art – the engineers there have been able to deliver extrusion technology under previously impossible conditions, which at the bottom line means that they’ve significantly increased the range of drugs that can be loaded onto fibers for in vivo delivery. Biologics that could not be delivered via implant before are now viable candidates. This is really game-changing, and something we see as potentially very valuable to manufacturers as implant demand grows, especially with an aging population, increased numbers of diabetics and obese patients. Right now, we are growing so fast, our machines can barely keep up. We know everything is cyclical – especially in health care – and we’re doing everything we can to keep the momentum moving forward.