Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker recently announced a $5 million matching grant from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MassTech) to Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI).
The grant will help support the launch of a new health care research initiative called PracticePoint at WPI, an integrated engineering/health care research and development center to create smart, secure digital health technologies. MassTech is a public state agency working to increase collaboration across academics, industry, and government. WPI is an engineering and technology university in Worcester, Mass.
“PracticePoint at WPI will help ensure Massachusetts continues as a global leader in digital health care and the innovation economy,” said Baker. “Along with our administration’s existing investments in advanced materials, smart devices, data and cybersecurity, this new public-private research and development partnership will deliver new advancements that create jobs and improve the lives of patients across the globe.”
The grant comes from MassTech’s Collaborative Research and Development Matching Grant Program, and will join WPI’s $9.5 million and GE Healthcare Life Sciences’ $2.5 million contributions. The grant was announced at a mid-April ceremony by Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, WPI President Laurie Leshin, and Ann R. Klee, vice president of Boston Development and Operations at GE.
“This exciting new facility will offer space for researchers to explore new opportunities and technology like never before,” said Polito. “By integrating medical labs with manufacturing and testing, PracticePoint at WPI will deliver new innovations and make the Worcester region a leader in delivering the next generation of health care advancements and jobs.”
“The contribution of direct, in-kind and equipment totaling $2.5 million from GE Healthcare Life Sciences strengthens our long-standing connection with WPI, an important business, research and recruiting partner for GE. It also reinforces GE’s commitment to investment and innovation throughout Massachusetts in conjunction with the move of our headquarters to Boston,” said Ger Brophy, general manager at GE Healthcare Life Sciences. “Worcester Polytechnic Institute prepares the next generation of scientists and engineers that we need at GE and GE Healthcare Life Sciences to continue our work of enabling clinicians and researchers to discover, develop, and deliver life-changing therapies.”
PracticePoint will have four simulated health care settings–surgical, clinical, rehabilitative, and home health care–that provide point-of-practice testing for devices, while simultaneously testing the technologies for cybersecurity vulnerabilities.
To start, the center will focus on developing cyber health care systems and products. This includes all devices that “intelligently” interact with people or things, such as robotic diagnostic tools, surgical robots, smart rehabilitation devices, and home health care proxy devices. These types of devices can help deliver personalized care through precision therapies, procedures, and diagnostics.
“Imagine new ways to treat inoperable tumors, new systems that allow elders to remain at home safely, or smart devices that speed rehabilitative care—these are just some of the extraordinary technologies we hope will emerge when we bring together creative engineers, scientists and clinicians to work in the novel setting that PracticePoint provides,” said Leshin.
“We are proud of our ongoing work to develop regional technology clusters, and harness emerging technologies as drivers of regional economic development,” said Secretary Jay Ash, Housing and Economic Development. “Worcester is already a leader in robotics, health care delivery, and the life sciences. PracticePoint at WPI will build on that expertise, and create a vibrant new economic engine in the heart of Massachusetts.”
“By making direct investments into innovation infrastructure, we are expanding the innovation capacity at our universities, and in turn, supporting the growth of industry clusters that are vital to the commonwealth’s future economic growth,” said Tim Connelly, executive director/CEO at Massachusetts Technology Collaborative. “WPI has a strong track record of bringing together faculty and students with leading companies to advance research. We are confident that this investment will continue that track record, while boosting the competitiveness of our Massachusetts companies and students as they engage with the global economy.”
The center will also offer a range of educational and workforce training opportunities to support the digital health industry in Massachusetts.