Previous ranking: 2
Medical device industry employment (2019): 30,466
Medical device industry establishments (2019): 482
Major medical device company headquarters (2019): 4
Medical device patents (2019): 701
Medical device VC investments (2019): $80M
Medical device VC deals (2019): 14
Best States for Business ranking (2019): 15
Minnesota arguably has the institutions and the talent required to provide the U.S. healthcare industry the innovation it desperately needs. The question is whether potential investors will notice the hub nicknamed “Medical Alley.”
One of the nation’s top health providers, Mayo Clinic, is based in Rochester, Minn. One of the largest health insurers in the U.S., UnitedHealth Group, is based in Minnetonka, Minn., with its Optum subsidiary seeking to combine technology, data, and expertise to improve healthcare delivery. And one of the world’s largest advanced manufacturing and medical device companies, 3M Co., is headquartered in Maplewood, Minn.
The Minnesota medical device hub’s roots go back to the middle of the 20th century, when University of Minnesota surgeons including Dr. C. Walton Lillehei pioneered open-heart surgery. Lillehei happened to meet Earl Bakken, who along with brother-in-law Palmer Hermundslie had started a business out of a garage repairing hospital equipment. Lillehei tasked Bakken with finding a replacement for the large, unreliable pacemakers then in use. Bakken and Hermundslie’s business eventually grew into Fridley, Minn.–based Medtronic — now the world’s largest medical device company.
Manny Villafaña, a Bronx native who came to the Twin Cities decades ago, started out in the 1960s working on international sales for Medtronic. But he then took a risk and founded Cardiac Pacemakers Inc., which is now part of Boston Scientific’s Guidant business. Boston Sci continues to have a large presence in the Twin Cities.
By the mid-1970s, Villafaña wanted to innovate in another area: Bileaflet mechanical heart valves. The resulting company was St. Jude Medical, which Abbott acquired for $25 billion in 2018. (Villafaña, now in his 70s, remains an active entrepreneur.)
Beyond the several well-known medical device companies with large presences in Minnesota — Medtronic, Boston Scientific, Abbott, and Smiths Medical — Minnesota boasts a vast ecosystem of contract manufacturers, device testing outfits, designers, and regulatory and product development consultants to support the industry. It employed 30,466 Minnesotans in 2019, according to the Minnesota Department of Employment & Economic Development.
Notable medical device industry suppliers
3M (Maplewood) not only sells an array of medical and surgical supplies and drug delivery systems but is also a major supplier of medical adhesives for a variety of devices.
Ametek Engineered Medical Components (Eden Prairie) boasts design and manufacturing capabilities including custom engineered interconnects, catheter components and systems, implanted lead components, ultrasound assemblies, and precision laser machining services.
Cirtec Medical (Brooklyn Park) has more than 30 years of experience developing medical devices fabricated under 21 CFR 820 and ISO 13485 quality standards. It specializes in technologies ranging from ventricular assist to cardiac rhythm management to implantable drug delivery.
CPC (Colder Products Co.) is a St. Paul-based provider of quick disconnect couplings, fittings and connectors for plastic tubing.
Testing outfit DDL is headquartered in Eden Prairie.
Donatelle (New Brighton) specializes in complex applications where precision, tolerances and validation are critical.
Freudenberg Medical has a product development center in Minnetonka that specializes in medical balloon development and prototyping and catheter-based devices.
Heraeus Medical Components (St. Paul) draws on the global resources of its German parent company to provide materials, components, assemblies and accessory devices for active devices. Heraeus also provides interventional product assembly, components and finished sterile device expertise from design through manufacturing.
Integer, which includes the former Lake Region Medical, has a major presence.
Lowell (Brooklyn Park) manufactures complex medical devices for the orthopedic and cardiovascular markets.
Minnesota Rubber and Plastics (Plymouth) designs, develops and manufactures rubber, plastic and silicone components, assemblies and finished product.
Minnetronix (St. Paul) since 1996 has been a development, manufacturing and technology partner for medical device companies around the world.
Nortech Systems (Maple Grove) is able to provide combine wire/cable, PCBA, and a number of value-added manufacturing services in an FDA-registered facility. Nortech also has Devicix, its world-class engineering services group.
Phillips-Medisize — one of the largest medical device contract manufacturers in the world — is based over the St. Croix River in Hudson, Wis.
Protolabs is a rapidly growing digital manufacturer with a variety of fast manufacturing processes that have made medical-related products ranging from fitness trackers to a blood-clot-detecting ultrasound system to ear-cleaning headphones.
Switchback Medical (Maple Grove) provides device prototyping, development and full program management.