How to Stay Current and Connected in the Medical Device Industry

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Sharing best practices. Bridging knowledge. Identifying resources. Providing access to expertise. Is all of this possible within the medical device space? Answer: it can be! In this interview with Frank Jaskulke and Ryan Baird, we learn how LifeScience Alley is helping its members build and sustain their medical device careers and respective organizations.

Interview Highlights with Frank Jaskulke and Ryan Baird

  • What is LifeScience Alley and why is the biotech/pharma segment of their membership growing so fast?
  • Three major reasons why should you consider becoming a member of LifeScience Alley.
  • The role LifeScience Alley plays in improving the medical device regulatory environment.
  • Medical device education and training programs that are offerred through LifeScience Alley.
  • Why is outsourced medical device manufacturing coming back to the midwest?
  • Is the recession forcing a “connection renaissance” between healthcare providers and industry affiliates?
  • Are you an ambitious medical doer?  Listen to this advice from Frank and Ryan!
  • And much more!

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1) You can listen to the interview with Frank and Ryan right now:

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4) Read the following transcripts from my interview with Frank and Ryan.  Also, feel free to download the transcripts by clicking here.

Who are Frank and Ryan?

Interview with Frank Jaskulke of LifeScience Alley

Frank Jaskulke is the Director of Member Services for LifeScience Alley with responsibilities for member service, retention, development and government affairs. In the membership role, he seeks to facilitate new business and clinical opportunities. In the government affairs role, Frank seeks to advocate for affordable and accessible health care technology and Minnesota economic development. Prior to joining LifeScience Alley, he served as a Page for the House Biosciences Committee in the Minnesota State Legislature. Frank received his B.A. and Master’s degrees in political science, from the Twin Cities and Duluth campuses of the University of Minnesota.

Interview with Ryan Baird of LifeScience Alley

Ryan Baird serves as the Director of Marketing & Communications for LifeScience Alley. Since joining the organization in 2005, his main responsibilities have included media relations, content and production of the e-newsletter, website content and maintenance, and communications design and implementation. He is also responsible for overseeing marketing and communications efforts for the Annual Conference & Expo, and manages the New Technology Showcase. Ryan was part of the core team that developed the new organizational identity and image, transitioning the Association from Medical Alley/MNBIO to LifeScience Alley. He was also involved with the development of the new member-focused website and member directory. Ryan holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Spanish from the University of Notre Dame.

Read the Interview with Frank and Ryan

Sharing best practices. Bridging knowledge. Identifying resources. Providing access to expertise. Is all of this possible within the medical device space? Answer: it can be! In this interview with Frank Jaskulke and Ryan Baird, we learn how LifeScience Alley is helping its members build and sustain their medical device careers and respective organizations.

Here’s a few things we’re going to learn in the interview with Frank and Ryan:

What is LifeScience Alley and why is the biotech/pharma segment of their membership growing so fast?

Three major reasons why should you consider becoming a member of LifeScience Alley.

The role LifeScience Alley plays in improving the medical device regulatory environment.

Why is outsourced medical device manufacturing coming back to the midwest?

Is the recession forcing a “connection renaissance” between healthcare providers and industry affiliates?

Of course, there’s a lot more awesome info we’re going to cover in this interview.  But before we dig in, you need to listen to these brief messages from our sponsors.  And by the way, if you’re interested in becoming a Medsider sponsor, our sponsorships are now open.  Go to  Again, that’s


Now, listen up…


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Now here’s your program…


Scott Nelson:    Hello, everyone.  It’s Scott Nelson, and welcome to another edition of Medsider, home of the free personal medical device MBA, and for those of you who are new to the program, this is a show where I bring on interesting folks in the medical device arena, interview them, talk about what they’re currently doing so we can all learn a few things, and maybe there’s some entertainment value along the way.  And on today’s call we have Ryan Baird, he is the director of marketing and communications for LifeScience Alley, and we also have one of his colleagues on the program as well, Frank Jaskulke, and Frank’s going to correct that if I mispronounce his last name, but he is the director of member services at LifeScience Alley as well.  So, welcome to the call, guys.  Appreciate you coming on.

Frank Jaskulke:       Thank you for having us, Scott.

Ryan Baird:      Thank you.

Scott Nelson:    Okay, so let’s start with LifeScience Alley, and maybe I’ll toss the baton to you, Frank, but can you give us a good overview of LifeScience Alley?

Frank Jaskulke:       Sure.  So, LifeScience Alley is the largest state-based life sciences trade association in the country, and when we say life sciences, we mean medical device, which is the largest part of what we have in Minnesota, but also the drug and diagnostic community, which is also actually growing more rapidly than medical devices in the state.

Scott Nelson:    Okay, and is there any sort of rationale as to why that particular segment is growing faster than, say, the device division, for lack of a better description?

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah.  You know, probably the best we can tell is two big drivers.  One is, there’s a lot of academic research that goes on in the drug and diagnostic world in the state.  The U of M has historically been top 10 for the generation of new molecular entities and new chemical entities, the starting blocks for drug research, and it’s become easier to commercialize those things outside of the core communities like New Jersey or Research Triangle Park or San Diego.  And so a lot more of what’s being developed here is now growing here.

The other part of it is actually the device industry.  So, increasingly, device companies are going into drug delivery.  You think of like Boston Scientific and the drug-eluting stent, which is down in Maple Grove, Minnesota, Medtronic’s Neuromodulation Division where they have a whole bunch of drug pump technology, and then 3M with a whole range of drug delivery technologies like their microneedles.  There’s a lot of device-based drug delivery in town that they’re bringing the drug development in as well.

Scott Nelson:    Very good.  Very good.  Okay.  That’s a decent rationale.  Okay, so you mentioned LifeScience Alley is the largest trade association, and trade association can mean a number of things.  Can we drill down into what maybe you folks do.

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah.

Scott Nelson:    And maybe we talk about it from the member’s-eye view or the member’s point of view as well.

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah, sure.  So there are three core services that we provide for the members, which is advocacy and public policy work, collaborative services and networking, and then education and training, and all three of those services are wrapped up around a common thread of helping our member companies to be more successful more quickly.  You know, we think that’s good for business but it’s also good just in general because when companies like our members are more successful, they get life-saving therapies to the bedside more quickly, and that goes back even to 1984 when we were started by Earl Bakken, the founder of Medtronic.  He wanted an organization that would help companies like Medtronic and all the spinout from it grow in Minnesota, be more successful and get the life-saving, pain-alleviating, health-restoring therapies out there more quickly.

Scott Nelson:    Gotcha.  So for those listening that are familiar maybe with like a B and I group, for example, LifeScience Alley is like a B and I group on steroids but just focused in on the life sciences, the med tech, medical device biotech…

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah, and focused in on the community that’s in Minnesota.

Scott Nelson:    Gotcha.

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.  So, okay, just Minnesota.  And those three services, I’m going to jot those down again, but can you repeat those for me again, Frank?

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah.  So it’s advocacy and public policy work, collaboration and networking services, and then education and training.

Scott Nelson:    Okay, and maybe it would be nice if you can give a description or maybe an example of each of those services…

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah.  Sure.

Scott Nelson:    …from advocacy and public policy to collaboration, networking, then maybe the last one, education and training.

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah.  Yeah.  So on the advocacy and public policy—actually as we’re talking, I’m looking at our State Capitol Building right now.  And so a lot of the work we do involves state and federal policy issues.  Part of it is what we call reactionary work.  There’s a bad bill introduced, so there’s legislation that would be good for our members, and we go and work with it.  We find out how would the legislation impact our member companies, does it only impact a segment of them or all of them, and then get the relevant companies involved in the grassroots politics, the lobbying, the things that that’s not their business to do but they need to be involved because if a bad piece of legislation passes it could impact their business.  So instead of every company trying to build out a government affairs function, which is very expensive, very time-consuming, if you’re a startup you’re just not going to do it, they join LifeScience Alley and we do that work.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Frank Jaskulke:       On the federal level, we’re doing the same kinds of things but we’re also increasingly taking on proactive projects where we’re looking for significant barriers to the growth and development of the industry and seeking to modify or remove them.  And so the best example right now is our partnership with the FDA and CDRH on regulatory side, you know, something that’s much bigger than one piece of legislation and has a significant impact on the industry, and so we’re acting as the organizer and as a leadership organization to work through it.

Scott Nelson:    Gotcha.  Okay.  And to that point, I’ll stop you just real quick.  I think you guys had a recent press release regarding that collaboration effort between the FDA, LifeScience Alley and CDRH…

Ryan Baird:      Correct.

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah.  Yeah, and Ryan can talk about that.

Ryan Baird:      Yeah, I can tell you that that relationship has been going on for quite a while now and that formalization of it is really something new, but our president and CEO Dale Wahlstrom, who spent 25 years in Medtronic and really knows the industry very well, developed a private and very constructive dialogue with Dr. Jeff Shuren, who is the director of CDRH and FDA, last year, and it was right around the time of the Design of Medical Devices Conference at the U of M host here, and in that dialogue they really started talking about kind of taking a step back from the day-to-day approval process and having a larger and hopefully a more company-agnostic discussion, kind of outside of what they would term the competitive space, about advancing regulatory science for the betterment of everybody of the entire community and of really providing a common language for developing and testing medical devices.  And so what you saw in that press release is really a very good step in the direction of developing that process and working together.

Frank Jaskulke:                                                       Okay, I think there was a recognition there of some first principles work needing to be done.  So, you know, there’s been for a couple of years now a big issue around device approval, especially in 510(k), and the response to it has been a very traditional government affairs function, lobby, introduce legislation, things like that, which are necessary but didn’t get through the root cause, and you know, because Dale came out of a device company and we work with these firms, we’re used to CAPA and root cause analysis, and what we think really one of the root causes is this regulatory sciences developing is not disseminated in industry, it’s not well-understood among the agency, and there’s a lot of new technology coming out that needs new test protocols and new ways of getting to approval that can’t really be developed by any one company.  You know, if you spend all the time and effort to develop this, your competitors come in right behind you and use the path you’ve laid, and then bring out competitive products.

Scott Nelson:    Mm-hmm.

Frank Jaskulke:       So as Ryan said, we wanted to take this into a pre-competitive phase to figure out how would you restack the deck to have better product approvals, faster product approvals and less costly product approvals.

Ryan Baird:      And still maintain the safety of those devices.

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah.

Ryan Baird:      But you know, really just increasing the access to the patients.

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah.

Scott Nelson:    Very good, yeah.  And it seems like that’s always been the interesting paradigm with industry obviously wanting faster approval times both on the 510(k), and there’s obviously been a lot of buzz around the 510(k) and PMA programs recently…

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah.

Scott Nelson:    …wanting basically faster approval times, and we’re seeing a surge in companies taking the devices [00:12:07] for first-demand trial [00:12:09]

Frank Jaskulke:       Right.

Scott Nelson:    …you know, because of that issue, and then also there’s the patient portion of that in that if devices are approved too fast, then you may [00:12:20] miss out on that safety component as well, so…

Frank Jaskulke:       Right.  I think the approach that we’re taking once we meet about it is we’re starting from that patient access as one of our first principles and saying, “We know we can get safer product approvals as well as faster product approvals.”

Scott Nelson:    Okay.  Okay.

Ryan Baird:      And so, you know, a point that we make quite often is that the people who are developing these products have such highly specialized skills.  They could be doing anything.  They’re in medical devices and they’re developing these kinds of products because, you know, the basic philosophy of the people doing it and the companies doing it is that they want to help people, they want to improve and save lives.

Scott Nelson:    Right.  Cool.  No, that’s obviously a good point, is we take it down to that level where the people that are designing the devices, obviously they’re not in it to just make a buck.  They want to improve the life of the patient.

Ryan Baird:      Right.  Right.  I mean, if they wanted to make a fast buck, there are a lot of easier places to do it, you know.

Scott Nelson:    Yeah, that’s actually a really good point.

Ryan Baird:      [Laughs] Yeah.

Scott Nelson:    [00:13:20] is the fact that these people that are doing the work, you know, behind the scenes, behind the curtains, they’re going to have the right minds that…

Ryan Baird:      Yeah, if you’re a smart engineer, you can be paid a lot more money to figure out how to, you know, better drill for oil than how to make a better heart stent.

Scott Nelson:    Right.  Right.

Frank Jaskulke:       Exactly.

Scott Nelson:    No, cool.  Cool.  No, I wanted to talk about that whole dynamic with you guys, and we may circle back around to that as it pertains to trends that you’re seeing in the medical device space.

Ryan Baird:      Yeah.

Scott Nelson:    But Frank, did you want to mention anything more about the advocacy/public policy component of LifeScience Alley or did you want to move on to the next one, collaboration and networking?

Frank Jaskulke:       We can move on.  That really covers the core of it.  It’s react when there’s something bad, and then proactive leadership on issues meant to remove a barrier to grow.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.  Okay.

Ryan Baird:      Scott, the only thing I would add to that is that we did hire, about four, five months ago we hired a new vice-president of government and affiliate relations, Shaye Mandle, and so that was kind of our signal to the industry and our membership that we’re taking that particular line of service, the advocacy and the public policy, very seriously, and that we have every intention of really stepping up our level of engagement in 2012 and beyond.

Scott Nelson:    Gotcha.  Okay.  Cool.  No, thanks for mentioning that.

Ryan Baird:      Sure.

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah.  So then on the second of the service areas, the collaboration and the networking services, the underlying idea there is you could be any device or drug company, big or small, and there’s always a need for suppliers, partners, investment, key people, various resources, and through the normal course of your work you’re going to develop a resource network, but inevitably there’s going to be some point where you have a gap in that network.  You’re developing a product, you need to do a clinical trial in a specific area, and you don’t know the company or the person that’s best in class to do that.

Through our networking and our collaborative services, we try to close that gap so that you can more quickly find the partner, more quickly get working on the project, so that you spend less time and money trying to find who to work with and more time and money actually working with them, and we do that in two ways.  One is networking through our program.  So every activity we do throughout the year, and we have a about 120 programs a year, there’s networking built into it.  And the idea is create a space for informal connection, engineers to meet engineers, marketing people to meet marketing people, regulatory to regulatory.  You’re cross-functional, and so you know who’s out there, what are they doing, before you have a need for it.

The second part of it is our referral service where at any point if a company is looking for a specific supplier, partner, investors, etc., they can call us up or usually send us an email, give us a shopping list, and then we’ll help you track it down.  And we do that for very simple things.  You know, most common one is, “find me a regulatory consultant that works on this therapeutic,” all the way up to we’ve helped companies raise tens of millions of dollars, be acquired, find strategic partners, [00:16:27] new talent, and everything in between, and we’re on pace for this year to do about 10,000 of those kinds of referrals.

Scott Nelson:    Oh, wow.  Okay.

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah.

Scott Nelson:    So tell me, how does that typically work?  Let’s say I’m working within kind of a startup company and we’re having trouble with some certain reimbursements codes or something like that for that particular device.

Frank Jaskulke:       Right.

Scott Nelson:    Is there someone that they call or reach out to within LifeScience Alley for that referral?  Or how does that typically happen?

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah, a lot of them end up going through the member services group…

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Frank Jaskulke:       But we’re a small enough staff that they contact anyone on staff and we get it figured out.  We’re only about 20 people overall.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.  Okay.

Frank Jaskulke:       And so most of them are quite literally, like reimbursement’s been a common one this year.  They’ll send us an email or we’ll get a voice mail or a call and it’ll say, “Yeah, I’m having a problem with this kind of code.”  We have a person that’s skilled in this area, and then we can go into our network, into our databases, identify first all the reimbursement people, and drill down who are the ones that know this kind of technology or this area of reimbursement, and then provide them that list with a little bit of narrative so they understand, “Okay, this one’s a big huge consulting company, this one’s an independent person, this one’s in between,” so they can pick among the people and find the one that would most fit what they’re looking for.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.  Okay.  And then…

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah, so…

Scott Nelson:    Oh, go ahead, I’m sorry.

Frank Jaskulke:       I was saying usually when we get those requests, we can respond in less than an hour.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.  Wow.  Wow.  So it’s a fast turnaround time.  And that first point you mentioned about kind of the networking event per se…

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah.  Yeah.

Scott Nelson:    Is that more of like, we’re having sort of this cocktail hour on this date, that kind of thing, or maybe go into a little bit more detail about that…

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah, actually the majority of them are within functional areas, so of the 120 programs we do, probably 85 or 90 of them are education training programs, and within all of those programs we have networking time built into it.  And so that might be a program for the R and D group, so the attendees are primarily going to be engineers, scientists, product developers from big companies, little companies, everything in between, and they’ll have a space to interact.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Frank Jaskulke:       We then also do have things that are like the cocktail hours more networking events, but most of it happens within the functional areas.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.  And maybe this is a good time, because you guys recently just hosted in your annual conference, right?  That was fairly recently, right?

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah.  Yeah.  Yeah, on September 7th.

Scott Nelson:    September 7th.  And would that fall under sort of the collaboration and networking or is that more under the educational training umbrella?

Frank Jaskulke:       It covers both.  The focus of it is the collaboration and networking side of things but it includes a number of breakout sessions that are more educative in nature.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.  Okay.  And do you want to go into that?  Maybe this is a good time to, I don’t want to get too off-track here, but maybe talk a little bit about your annual conference.

Frank Jaskulke:       So it was our 10th year this year, which was really nice for us.  We had about 1500 people attend from, Ryan, was it 13 different countries?

Ryan Baird:      I think we had, yeah, 12 or 13 different countries and about 29 different states and roughly [00:19:45] about 630 companies.

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah. [00:19:48] pretty wide reach.

Scott Nelson:    Wow.  And is it 1500?

Frank Jaskulke:       Fifteen hundred, yeah.

Scott Nelson:    Wow.  Okay.  So yeah, that’s a lot.  Wow.  Okay.

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah, and the idea is kind of that one level, you get everyone that’s involved in the industry in one place on one day so that we can talk about some of the bigger trends that are going on in the community, have a little bit of a kind of a rah-rah spirit, you know, it’s been a long year, get them ready to start 2012, and then have a lot of networking around the new technologies, the new people coming out of the universities, the next generation of our industry, exposed to the current generations of our industry.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Ryan Baird:      And the difference, Scott, between, you know, this particular event and what we do throughout the year that Frank kind of already mentioned when he was talking about collaboration is that this does still bring together everybody in the local community, but this is really the one time of the year that we bring in international delegations…

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah.

Ryan Baird:      …people from outside Minnesota who are able to see what we do here, how the networking component of it works, and also like Frank was just talking about see those new technologies in research that we’ve got, you know, that we specialize here in this geography.

Scott Nelson:    Gotcha.

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah, it’s a way to expose the world to what we’re doing.

Ryan Baird:      Yeah.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.  And the actual name of the conference is Advancing Medical Technology, right?

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah.

Ryan Baird:      It was, this year.  That was our theme.

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah.

Ryan Baird:      So, you know, we call it the LifeScience Alley Conference and Expo, and then last year it was Health Tomorrow, this year it was Advancing Medical Technology.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.  Okay.  Alright, cool.  And to those listening that’s like, you know, this sounds somewhat appealing, what’s the 15-, 30-second elevator pitch for that as to why someone should go to this conference?

Ryan Baird:      Well, before I could…

Frank Jaskulke:       You know, oh…go ahead, Ryan.

Ryan Baird:      I was going to say, before I can answer that I should tell you that we’re looking right now at how we can approve it for next year,  So the exact format that it’s going to take we don’t know yet for 2012, but we know we will be holding an annual meeting.  And based on what Frank said, I mean, what we recognize is that we bring in people together to cross those lines you don’t normally cross, to talk to one another, to share best practices, to find partners, maybe it might be international distributors or funders, whatever they might find there, but also to have access to that new technology.  That’s what 2012 is going to focus on.  We’re just not sure exactly what format that’s going to take.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.  Okay.  And Frank, were you going to add something there as well?

Frank Jaskulke:       No, that covers it.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.  Okay.

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah.

Scott Nelson:    Yeah.  On your website,, I went to that little link, I’m actually looking at it right now, where I get an idea of the various speaker presentations, and there’s, you know, the first one listed is Seeing Beyond Silos – Innovative Collaborations Among Providers, Payors and Industry.  That sounds very interesting but, very cool.  So definitely that’s a link that people can check out.  So let’s see, you want to circle back around the educational training component?

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah.  So the third service, education and training, is usually the part of LifeScience Alley that our members and the community at large is most familiar with because we do so much of it and it’s such high-quality.  I mean, in a year we’ll get about a third of the entire device industry that’s in Minnesota and about a third of the drug industry within the state coming through our education programs every year…

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Frank Jaskulke:       …and maybe about 8500 people in total each year, and what it is is that the education program is premised on the idea that in med tech, in biotech, in pharmaceuticals, you have the regulatory arm, you have clinical requirements, you have reimbursement issues, and these things are constantly changing, and they’re the types of things that if you don’t stay current on them your business will not succeed.  They’re not optional things.

Now, if you’re a very large company, you could afford to build internal training to keep current on those things, but if you’re a small or even a medium-sized company, it’s a lot of money.  So instead we’ve built up the capability to provide that training at a very high level for a fraction of the cost of what any company could do it internal, and we’re able to do that because we can spread the cost over a much larger group, the entire device and drug industry and the state, as well as we built it as a nonprofit organization so we get a lot of extra trainers who volunteer their time, and we’ll get people from the companies will volunteer their time to provide the training.  So we might have a program on some regulatory topics with a person from Medtronic talking about how they have approached the issue to a roomful of people from St. Jude, Boston Scientific, 3M, a bunch of startups, so competitors and partners all in the same room talking about common issues and regulatory, clinical, reimbursement, R and D, etc.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Frank Jaskulke:       And it’s become a hallmark of the organization.  We get extremely high marks from the companies on it.  Many, many people come back over and over and over again for the training, and when we look at divisions even in other states, the way they’re structured for some of our larger companies is different because they can get training here that they can’t get elsewhere so they have to build it themselves.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.  And, because I know there’s some larger sort of training sort of categories, you know, like the Mini Masters program and your partnership with WMDO…

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah.

Scott Nelson:    But like, these specific trainings, like new regulatory changes, how does that happen?  Can you give us a better idea of what does it look like?

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah.  Yeah.  It really is a great community that we work with, and they feed us the information on what the needs are.  So all of the programs we put on throughout the year come from member companies telling us, “This is the kind of stuff that I need to know or that my company needs to know or my department needs to know.”  And usually, you know, if there’s like new guidance or a new whatever in clinical that comes out, if one company needs to know it there are probably 50 others that do as well.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Frank Jaskulke:       And so the companies are very good about feeding us with, “Here’s what we need to know,” and then we can go out and build the program to that, and because of the systems we have in place we can do it very quickly.  So if we get an idea, from the day we get the idea, if it’s approved, we can have a program six weeks later…

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Frank Jaskulke:       …and [00:26:15] that’s open in the market in time and all of it.

Scott Nelson:    Wow, okay.  So within six weeks you can a have a program built.  That’s pretty [laughs] fast.  And so these programs, is it like a weekend course?  Is that kind of how like the actual structure, or how is the content distributed to the…?

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah.  Right.  It varies, but the majority of the programs, probably 75%, are 90-minute programs in the morning, and we do them in a portion of the Minneapolis suburbs that’s pretty close to almost all of the companies in the state.  So it’s a very concentrated industry.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Frank Jaskulke:       The reason they’re only 90 minutes is because for the topic, what we try to do is find a really narrow, very specific topic.  So we’ll do some programs that are like regulatory 101, clinical 101, but the majority of what we do would be taking a very specific subset of a regulatory issue and doing a deep dive on it, and then we do those over and over again.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Frank Jaskulke:       So that way, the training that you get out of it, you know, for the 50 or 60 people that are at a program, it’s the training they specifically need at that moment to keep doing their job.

Scott Nelson:    Gotcha.  Okay.

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah.

Scott Nelson:    And typically how many of these do you hold per year, these sort of [00:27:27] very niche [00:27:30] trainings.

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah.  Total programs is 120 a year, education and training is 80 to 90 of them a year.

Scott Nelson:    Oh, wow.  So there’s a lot.  There’s quite a few of them.

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah, usually between two and for every week.

Scott Nelson:    Oh, wow.  Okay.  Okay.

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah.

Scott Nelson:    I had no idea it was that—so I presume your education training staff is pretty large to be able to turn around a course in a relatively short time and to actually have that many of them.  That’s impressive.

Frank Jaskulke:       There are three dedicated staff, and then a couple of support staff that also have other roles.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Frank Jaskulke:       But then we have volunteers from our member companies who help in program identification and feature identification, and then we primarily are doing the logistics, the marketing and the registration.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.  Okay.

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah.  We have built a very efficient system for managing it.

Scott Nelson:    Okay, and I presume that if you’re a member of LifeScience Alley, then—I mean, do you find out about this stuff via email, via like an RSS feed or…

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah.

Scott Nelson:    …going on your website and searching for the course, or how does that work?

Frank Jaskulke:       Yup.  The number one marketing tool is through the email, and if you’re a member or not, you can be on the mailing list to see what programs are coming up, news items, things like that.  We then also have them on the website, and we’ve been exploring using a few other like social media tools and just kind of dipping our toes in the water, but email’s the main driver.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.  Okay.

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah.

Scott Nelson:    And then also, I mentioned this earlier, but you developed a Mini Masters program with the University of St. Thomas as well as…

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah.

Scott Nelson:    …your partnership with the WMDO.  Can you speak to those two topics as well?

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah.  So the Mini Masters was developed a couple of years before Ryan and I started with the notion that we were getting a number of entrepreneurial people in our community telling us they needed some skills rounded out.

Scott Nelson:    Mm-hmm.

Frank Jaskulke:       They knew like one part of med tech but didn’t know some of the others, and so they didn’t feel quite as comfortable working in those areas.  So we created the Mini Masters as a way to give a person a bit of breadth in what it takes to launch a medical technology product or to start a medical technology company.  So it’s kind of a baseboard or a swing board for doing a med tech company.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Frank Jaskulke:       And then, the WMDO partnership is one we just started a little over a year ago.  Almost all of our programs right now are in-person live programs.  We’re looking at distance education, how can we record programs and deliver them, have e-learning, webinars, things like that, and still maintain the quality and the integrity of our programming, and so our partnership with WMDO has been one way we’ve been exploring that.  You know, we’re fortunate that most of the med tech and biotech community in Minnesota is pretty highly concentrated around two highways, 694 and 494.

Scott Nelson:    Mm-hmm.

Frank Jaskulke:       But there are also developing areas in Rochester, Minnesota where the Mayo Clinic is, Duluth, Minnesota, which is way in the north, and then we also tend to drop people from some of the surrounding states, but for them to come up for a 90-minute program, you know, in the morning, is a bit of a hassle and hard to justify.

Scott Nelson:    Sure.

Frank Jaskulke:       So we want to have a way to be able to serve that community but still maintain the quality of the program.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Ryan Baird:      And something else we’d like to be able to do too, at some point, is to really showcase the expertise that Minnesota has.  I mean, you know, part of the reason we like to try and bring people here from other countries and other states for the annual conference or anything else during the year is because we have a unique infrastructure in this state.  We have all the pieces that you need to have a community like this thrive.  We have all the supporting companies, all the knowledge bases, and to be able to share that expertise with other people and show them what we’ve got here, you know, it showcases Minnesota but it also gives us a chance to form perhaps unlikely partnerships with outer clusters around the country, leveraging some of our talents here.

Scott Nelson:    Gotcha.  Yup.  Yup.  Cool.  That makes it [00:31:33].  And just a quick followup question, your partnership with the WMDO, how does that exactly work?  If you’re a member of LifeScience Alley, you get access to certain courses on WMDO or…?

Frank Jaskulke:       If you’re a member of LifeScience Alley, you can sign up for their—it’s not quite a membership but for their preferential rates at a discounted rate and get access to their program.

Scott Nelson:    Oh, okay.  Gotcha.  Gotcha.  Okay.  Okay.

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah.

Scott Nelson:    Yup.  Very cool.  Very good.

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah.

Scott Nelson:    Let’s see.  I know we’re running a little bit short on time.  So we’ve kind of talked about like the three basics, you know, as to what LifeScience Alley provides its members, and we certainly went into [00:32:15] advocacy and public policy being one of those, the second being collaboration and networking, and the third being education and training…

Frank Jaskulke:       Mm-hmm.

Scott Nelson:    …all of course, you know, helping your members succeed within the med tech, life science, healthcare arena.

Frank Jaskulke:       Mm-hmm.  Yeah.

Scott Nelson:    I’d like to ask just kind of some ending questions about trends, and then sort of maybe leave it off with some advice from both of you guys, but this is a good time to actually direct people to your website.  Where do you want people that are listening to this interview and want to learn more about LifeScience Alley, you know, where would you have them go?

Ryan Baird:      I would just say have them go to  All the information that we’ve talked about is located on the website.  Our Programs and Events section is a great place for them to see the calendar on a weekly or a monthly basis and have an idea of what programs they could come to for the Advocacy section of our website.  Now that we’ve got our new VP Shaye on board, it’s going to have a lot more content on it going forward, too, so I would say just have them go to the website and all those sections are within one click and that’s kind of where everything is.

Scott Nelson:    Yeah.  Yeah.

Frank Jaskulke:       And they can also find the staff contact on there, so if they ever have questions for anyone, we’re an open book.  Just send us an email or give us a call.

Scott Nelson:    Okay, and that’s

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah.

Scott Nelson:    L-I-F-E-S-C-I-E-N-C-E-A-L-L-E-Y dot org.  And on the left-hand side, I’m looking at your website right now, there’s the Program and Events, so you can kind of dig through each of those, find a program using the filters and drop-downs that Ryan just mentioned, you know, membership.  We didn’t really talk about membership, but someone can click on the Membership ad real quick and get an idea of what it would be to become a member as well as the Advocacy, News and Issues, Industry Resources, etc.

So, very cool, but let’s go ahead and kind of reach towards the conclusion, guys.  Any trends or interesting things that you’d like to mention that you’re seeing kind of on your, you know, within the med tech/medical device space?  You talked a little bit about kind of the regulatory environment, but is there anything else that stands out that you’d like to kind of share?

Frank Jaskulke:       You know, the two that I’ve really seen the last couple of months, they’ve been around for a while but they seem to really be [00:34:36] hitting positively now, one has been the suppliers’ side and manufacturing and engineering, we’ve had a lot of work that had been outsourced that is coming back, and we’ve seen a lot of our specialized manufacturing firms grow very rapidly.  We think that’s a very positive sign, you know, new business, businesses that have been outsourced coming to Minnesota or the Midwest.  You know, if it’s not going to end up in Minnesota, we’d love to at least see it here in the Midwest.

Scott Nelson:    [00:35:04]

Frank Jaskulke:       So that’s a positive…pardon?

Scott Nelson:    You saw a trend previously that it was going overseas and now it’s coming back to the Midwest, is that…

Frank Jaskulke:       We had seen little pieces of it, like components, not really [00:35:16] full finished goods but components, and even those components we’re seeing coming back, and we’re now seeing a lot of the manufacturing firms that are in town expand quite rapidly primarily driven by medical business.

Scott Nelson:    Any idea as to why you’re seeing that trend?

Frank Jaskulke:       You know, when we’ve talked to companies, the biggest reason has been two-fold.  One, it’s not as cost competitive in the med tech arena as some of the others because of the quality regulations and all the other things that go into it to outsource, and then second, quality.  You know, when you’re making a pacemaker or a stent or other things, they’re components for it, you could justify paying a little bit more if it dramatically decreases the risk of a failed component.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.  Okay.

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah.  So the quality cost hasn’t been as big of an issue as companies thought and quality is just much better with the precision machining in the US.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.  Okay.

Frank Jaskulke:       And then, the second trend that we’ve seen a lot of has been kind of the reconnecting between the care providers and the technology firm, but you think back a number of years ago when the pharma industry was getting beat up by the hospitals, the doctor, all the detailing, that started cascading over the device industry, and in the device world, you know, the physicians are a source of new product ideas.  And if you’re not having those regular interactions, it’s hard to get those new ideas.

Scott Nelson:    Mm-hmm.

Frank Jaskulke:       Now that the regulatory environment around it not really settled but it’s a little more known,  companies I think have figured out again how to have those relationships in a compliant manner and in a healthy manner, and the hospitals from, you know, a couple we’ve heard from, have identified those interactions, because that’s how they feed out improvements to clinical care that then they’re able to use, whereas when those interactions weren’t happening, they kind of realized what they were missing.  There’s a lot more care provider and technology company interaction than in the past couple of years.

Scott Nelson:    Sorry for the pause here.  I’m just kind of making sure I jot down these notes.

Frank Jaskulke:       Oh, no.

Scott Nelson:    Very cool.  No, that’s good stuff.  Ryan, how about you?  Anything that you want to mention in terms of like trends or interesting things that you’re kind of seeing?

Ryan Baird:      I’m going to go with a ditto on what Frank has said. [Chuckles] My role is really more internally focused.  Frank is our best voice out there in the community and he’s really meeting with those member companies on a daily basis.  So a lot of us here internally in the staff would pay close attention to what Frank’s hearing when he’s out in the membership and what he’s seeing.  But, you know, I would echo everything that he said and I would, you know, just also reiterate that that’s the reason that you saw—you know, you specifically mentioned earlier that morning keynote panel at our conference this year that was knocking down those silos between healthcare and industry.

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah.

Ryan Baird:      That’s exactly what needs to happen in 2012.  We need to see more of that, you know.  There’s a real opportunity here the technology producers to get together with the people who are driving the purchase of their products and understand exactly what they’re looking for and how we can all be a little bit more savvy in developing products that are going to have a higher rate of adoption and purchasing once they’re approved for, you know, the healthcare delivery system.

Scott Nelson:    Yup, cool.  That makes a lot of sense, and that same topic you could apply, that enhanced communication between various segments, you can apply to kind of the regulatory environment.  We spoke a little bit about that.

Frank Jaskulke:       Exactly.

Scott Nelson:    Like if there’s more communication [chuckles] between the two…

Frank Jaskulke:       Exactly.

Scott Nelson:    Or not just more communication but even better communication, that…

Frank Jaskulke:       Yeah.  What we hope with the work we’re doing and especially in the regulatory area is that we can provide a space where the regulatory agencies and industries can come together and have those kinds of conversations where, you know, the negativity isn’t there, the focus is on pre-competitive issues that we don’t have to worry about, you know, company collaborations or captured agency or things like that, but have those more positive dialogues to improve product safety and improve product approval.

Scott Nelson:    Right.  Right.  Very good.  Let’s leave it with this like one piece of advice for someone listening that’s currently in the med tech or biotech space and they’re ambitious and they’re like, “You know, Frank and Ryan, I really like this space but I want to do more.  I want to advance my career.  I want to do more things, etc.”  What one thing would you leave them with?

Frank Jaskulke:       You know, a thing that Dale Wahlstrom, our CEO, had told me a number of years ago that always stuck with me was this notion that we’re all in this together especially in the med tech industry.  So the worst of us is reflective on all of us and the best of us is as well.

Ryan Baird:      And I would just say to keep it really simple, get involved.  You know, something that we didn’t mention in this conversation at all, we have a strategic affiliation with the BioBusiness Alliance of Minnesota.  I actually sit in their offices.  That’s where I am right now.  They’re another fantastic organization, Dale is the president and CEO of both organizations and really what they are here to do is to build infrastructure and to develop new industries.  So they do work in the spaces we work in but they also work in renewable materials, renewable energy, but there are a lot of people over here who have great experience and great knowledge and only add to what Frank knows of the industry and what the rest of us know.  So I would say, you know, if you’re looking to get involved, if you’re looking to do more, to learn more, call us up because…

Frank Jaskulke:       Mm-hmm.

Ryan Baird:      …if the person who answers the phone doesn’t have the answer, chances are they’re sitting 10 feet away from somebody who does.

Scott Nelson:    Gotcha.  Very cool.  Good, guys.  This has been a really fascinating conversation, because I’ve heard things about LifeScience Alley, so you know, news releases and press releases, and I’ve certainly done digging around your website but that’s why I really love these interviews, because I get to hear firsthand from both of you guys who are highly involved in this organization and, I don’t know, I’m hoping that the audience can get a lot better feel for who you guys are and what you’re doing and what are the benefits of becoming a part of and a member of LifeScience Alley.  So, thanks again for coming on.  I appreciate it.

Frank Jaskulke:       Oh yeah, no problem.

Ryan Baird:      Thank you, Scott.

Frank Jaskulke:       We appreciate you involving us.

Ryan Baird:      Yeah, we really appreciate it.

Scott Nelson:    Absolutely, and I’ll have you guys hold on the line here as I end the call there, but  for those that missed the website earlier, it’s, L-I-F-E-S-C-I-E-N-C-E-A-L-L-E-Y dot org, spelled just exactly as [00:42:05],  Check it out if there’s some interest there in becoming a member of this very cool organization.  So, anyway, thanks everyone for listening.  I really appreciate your interest, and until the next edition of Medsider, take care. (Music Plays)

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