WORCESTER – January 14, 2020 – Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy and Worcester Polytechnic Institute President Laurie Leshin joined leaders from across Central Massachusetts and the healthcare technology community to officially open the new PracticePoint facility at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). The new research and development facility is located at WPI’s Gateway Park. Today’s event included a ribbon cutting, tours of the four innovative healthcare test beds housed in the facility and an industry-focused panel featuring companies that are members of the new center.
The addition of PracticePoint enhances Worcester’s stature as a hub for healthcare research and builds on WPI’s long history as a hotbed for innovation in engineering and robotics. The facility comprises four unique ‘point-of-practice’ clinical care scenarios including a fully instrumented living space, a state-of-the-art motion capture lab, a two-bed modular patient care suite and a functional operating room. The space also includes an MRI machine and advanced manufacturing rooms which offer an array of 3-D printing, CNC manufacturing, and electronics assembly and test capabilities.
“Our administration has prioritized digital health and healthcare in the Commonwealth’s innovation sector, recognizing it as an opportunity for continued industry leadership,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Facilities like PracticePoint are what sets Massachusetts apart, and I am confident that PracticePoint will spur continued health tech advancements in the Commonwealth.”
“Since taking office in 2015, we have witnessed the growth of Central Massachusetts as a biotech manufacturing and health tech hub due to the talent developing in Massachusetts universities and collaborative partnerships like PracticePoint, which is poised to stimulate the region’s continued leadership in this important economic space,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “We are grateful to our partners in both the private and public sectors whose leadership will drive the growth health tech innovation.”
"Our Administration has made Digital Health a priority, through the formation of the Digital Health Council and the development of other initiatives," said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy. "PracticePoint will help the Commonwealth solidify Massachusetts' leadership is this sector as an incubator for new ideas, a center of learning for students, and a facility for local startups to validate their products."
In April 2017, Lt .Governor Polito announced a $5 million infrastructure grant funded through the Commonwealth’s Collaborative Research Matching Grant program managed by the Innovation Institute at the MassTech Collaborative, a public economic development agency. The Commonwealth’s award was matched by WPI and investments from founding members GE Healthcare, MITRE Corporation and the University of Massachusetts Medical School, with additional support coming from new PracticePoint members Boston Scientific and Delsys, which highlight the cross-section of partners supporting the facility.
“Technology is rapidly changing the way we deliver healthcare - from new surgical robotics to cyber physical systems to smart devices that allow people to stay in their homes longer. These advancements require places for safe and secure development and testing, and PracticePoint is that place,” said WPI President Laurie Leshin. “Extraordinary advancements can come when creative engineers, scientists, clinicians, and entrepreneurs are able to work together - under one roof - in a novel setting with manufacturing labs and clinical environments. We look forward to seeing what improvements and innovations this facility will empower.”
Located in WPI’s Gateway Park, PracticePoint shares floor space with new labs being developed under a separate advanced manufacturing award from the Commonwealth which will advance R&D in photonics. In April 2019, Governor Baker visited WPI to announce the Digital Health Sandbox grant program, an initiative that will help innovative healthcare technology startups gain access to R&D spaces across the state, drive product advancement and shrink the time to market. In November 2019, after naming PracticePoint the first ‘sandbox’ in the program, the Massachusetts eHealth Institute at the MassTech Collaborative selected the first two startups to work at the facility.
“PracticePoint’s facilities are an impressive array of technologies, some of which are only found in our top hospitals, such as MRIs, but also integrated cybersecurity test capabilities that you can’t find in a healthcare setting,” said Carolyn Kirk, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative. “By opening the doors to facilities like these, we build on that unique Massachusetts formula that builds success, bringing together top minds in academia, cutting-edge R&D tools, and pioneering companies."
As a membership alliance, PracticePoint is open to all companies interested in joining their research network, including companies already located in Massachusetts or those looking to establish an R&D site in the state. Members gain access to state-of-the-art equipment, clinical partners within the university’s ecosystem, and WPI’s own in-house experts, including PracticePoint director Dr. Greg Fischer, an expert in the area of medical robotics and computer-integrated surgery. PracticePoint members gain access to flexible testing and work spaces, which allow for a multitude of experiments, as well as other institutional benefits including:
- An existing Institutional Review Board (IRB) for user studies and focus groups;
- A flexible wireless networking infrastructure in a realistic setting;
- Ability to conduct cybersecurity development and testing at device, networking, and data storage levels;
- Collaborative research opportunities with WPI faculty experts in areas including: user design/user interface; assessing cognitive load; medical robotics; biomechanics; sensor design and medical IOT; image-guided robotic interventions; smart prosthetics;
- Clinical partners within the WPI ecosystem, including hospital administrators, doctors, surgeons, and nursing care staff; and
- Multi-modality cross-validation of new designs with industry standards.
Organizations interested in becoming PracticePoint members can learn more on WPI's website.