This is an article I wrote for MDDI that will also be published in their May issue this year. It is a compilation, summary, and expansion of many of the things I have talked about on this blog over the last two years dealing with selection of lubricious coatings
and product development. If you read this article, you will have a good idea of what most of the previous ones of this blog have covered!
Hydrophilic Coatings: Considerations for Product Development
, maker of lubricious HYDAK® hydrophilic coatings
, the newest member of the HYDAK product line at the MDM West show in Anaheim, California, February 8 - 10.
HYDAK® HydroSleek coatings are based on a high molecular weight Hyaluronic Acid (HA). This technology has applications among a range of fields including ophthalmology, urology, cardiology, endoscopy, and neurovascular. HydroSleek coatings have overcome the trade off between lubricity and durability seen in cross-linked coatings. Additionally, HydroSleek involves a heat-cure process so both ID and OD may be coated without the concerns surrounding UV curing.
This new product will act as Biocoat's front line solution to medical device firms seeking to reduce surface friction for their devices. HydroSleek possesses the same beneficial characteristics of the family of HYDAK® coatings, plus advancements device manufacturers have requested.
Now that I am back from the west coast and have had a chance to dig out from the mountain of work waiting for me when I got back, I can reflect on how the show went. In a word: outstanding. The traffic at our booth was quite good. We actually saw a 50% jump in leads from last year, which is amazing since this has always been the
biggest lead generating show for us out of all of them to begin with. With some trepidation, I can venture to guess that the economy is on the road to recovery, although the medical sector never did that badly even in the worst years, 2008 and 2009. If you are low on cash, you may forego that dinner and that movie, but if you have chest pains, you don't forego that visit to the doctor. Right?
Another reason why I like this show is it gives me a chance to visit with my hydrophilic coatings "family", that somewhat incestuous tightly-knit group of competitors which all sell hydrophilic coatings among other things. It was good to see everyone again and to meet some people with whom I have not yet had the pleasure. My impression is that this business suffers a little bit from ADD in that few companies make their living only from hydrophilic coatings. (Perhaps because that is tough to do when the revenue from them can be small at times. Even my own company dabbles in the fertility industry.) All of these companies do hydrophilic coatings.... and something else. It is fascinating to see what their other ventures are: plasma treatment, biomaterials development, chemicals, contract manufacturing, contract manufacturing equipment, and others.
Beyond that, I like to see what the medical device companies are doing, and to find out more about why they are using lubricious coatings for their surfaces. I learned a lot of new information about catheters, guidewires, and some less common devices on this trip. Looking forward to servicing the new leads and seeing where they.... lead.
On this blog I have said much about the business of hydrophilic coatings, from both the perspective of the vendor and the buyer. In all cases, I have assumed the buyer was a corporation of some sort, not a university. The main reason for this is that customers from universities are not big moneymakers in most cases. From a business perspective, what customer would you rather have? The one who wishes to coat 100,000 units per year with a $2/part royalty rate, or a single grad student in a university lab that will coat 5 parts, ever?
Granted, this is a grim view and an extreme black-and-white example. The truth is more gray. Yes, some universities may ultimately create things that get sold on the market and wind up being profitable, many years from now. It is nice to get in on the ground floor on some of these things. Some hydrophilic coating companies might! In fact, some companies have partnerships with universities that do that very same thing. These companies contribute funding to research done on coatings, and somewhere, there's probably at least one happy grad student in each of those labs getting funded. It's always good when that happens. This is coming from me, a former corporate-funded grad student.
However, not all hydrophilic coating companies will. There are several reasons:
1) $ - I mentioned this above. It's just not worth it monetarily.
2) IP - Universities tend to be a little "grabby" when it comes to IP. When doing anything with a university, you need a contract to lay it all out first, and usually the first draft of that contract says "All your invention are belong to us". (Only true geeks will get the bad grammar reference there.) As a hydrophilic coating company, this is completely undesirable.
3) Time - A university can sometimes require as much time and attention as a normal corporate client, but for what return? See reasons #1 and #2.
That's really it. Those are the three reasons. So, the key here if you are a university researcher is to find a company that deals with universities, and also to find one that is open to new dealings with universities. Some companies pair up with one or two schools and that's it.
I would say the large majority of hydrophilic companies either have a deal already in place or do not deal with universities.