Medical device startup to hire 40 through Buffalo genomic research program

The Buffalo News I Stephen T. Watson

A Buffalo medical device startup intends to create 40 jobs over five years through a partnership with a University at Buffalo genomic research program, the university announced Thursday.

Garwood Medical Devices, which develops devices to treat chronic wounds and control joint-replacement infections, will receive $1.48 million in support from UB’s Buffalo Institute for Genomics and Data Analytics, known as BIG, as part of the agreement.

The institute is a key piece of a $105 million initiative, announced 2½ years ago by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, that links UB’s supercomputer to genomics researchers in New York City. It was meant to create 600 jobs in Buffalo Niagara.

The project largely has languished since then, but it was rebooted in May with the hiring of an executive director for the institute. University officials said the contract with Garwood is the first of many strategic partnerships to come for the institute.

“This collaboration expands our faculty and industry engagement to further critical, life-saving research,” said Brian McIlroy, the institute’s executive director, in a statement.

McIlroy, previously with GE Ventures, became the institute’s executive director two months ago.

The state-sponsored initiative is a partnership among UB, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, life sciences companies and the New York Genome Center in Manhattan. The intent is to develop new ways to treat, prevent and manage serious diseases using genomic medical research.

The researchers in Buffalo will use UB’s Center for Computational Research to analyze data on behalf of the scientists and physicians at the New York Genome Center, who work with large, complex genome sequences.

The Buffalo side of the project has taken longer than expected to get started. Computer Task Group, the largest company partner, pledged to hire 300 workers. But it has gone through leadership and financial issues in the last two years, requiring the company to scale back its participation, UB officials said this spring. The company will remain part of the program but will not meet its original commitment, and the project will meet its overall goal of 600 jobs with a different mix of industry partners, according to the university.

Garwood is the first announced new business partner. Wayne Bacon founded Garwood in July 2014, initially under the name Enermed, until he learned a Canadian company held the trademark for that name. Garwood is a long-standing family first name, Bacon said.

Bacon is the founder of Mills Welding & Specialty Gases, which he owned for 24 years before selling it in 2007 to Praxair. He was also chairman and CEO for 15 years of a biotechnology company in Massachusetts called ImmunoDiagnostics.

Garwood filed for three patents in September 2014, applied for the Start-Up NY tax-free zone program soon after and licensed three patented technologies from UB shortly after that, Bacon said.

The company is developing three main products. The first two are versions of electronic bandages that stimulate chronic wounds, to encourage healing. They have biometric sensors embedded in them.

The bandages can be programmed by the clinician and can report information from the patient back to the clinician, Bacon said.

The third product under development senses and eradicates bacterial infections in implants after joint-replacement surgeries. The company expects to have its first products on the market within 18 to 24 months, he said.

Garwood is a semi-finalist in this year’s 43North business-plan competition. The company is in the later stages of a Series A round of fundraising.

It is seeking $3.6 million, has $2.7 million in hand and has another $600,000 promised from investors.

Garwood will move on Monday into its new home in the downtown UB Gateway Building.

The company has no full-time employees but will soon start hiring.

The grant from UB will support six faculty members, who will work part-time on the project, as well as several graduate students, Bacon said.

“It’s a great relationship,” he said. “We could not possibly do what we’re doing without the help of the state or UB.”

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