Medical Alley

Spurred by the flurry from Minnesota inventors of innovations such as the pacemaker, bubble oxygenator, and artificial heart valve, Medical Alley was founded in 1984 as a nonprofit trade association to support the region's growing health care industry. Medical Alley was considered to denote the rich geographic area of health care-related organizations that extended from Duluth through Minneapolis/St. Paul and further south to Rochester (see More recently, Medical Alley has expanded beyond the Minnesota border into Canada, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, and the Dakotas. This expanded territory is home to over 800 medical device manufacturers and thousands of health care-related organizations, making it one of the highest concentrations of businesses in this industry in the world.

Medical Alley was founded by Earl Bakken, who pioneered the implantable pacemaker business through his company, Medtronic, Inc., in the 1960s. Bakken remains on the Medical Alley board of directors to this day, and Don Gerhardt currently presides as president over the association. Guided by the mission "to promote an environment to enhance innovation in healthcare," Medical Alley is a Minneapolis-based trade association that currently represents a membership of more than 300 health care-related companies and organizations. Its cohorts include a wide cross-section of medical device, equipment, and product manufacturers; health care providers such as hospitals and clinics; health plans and insurance organizations; medical education and research facilities; pharmaceuti cal and biotechnology companies; and service and consulting organizations.

Medical Alley's primary goals are to: (1) promote greater interest and investment in the region's health care-related research and innovation; (2) focus on legislative issues important to its membership; (3) provide members with educational opportunities that address current issues and trends affecting the health care industry; and (4) assemble leaders from across the industry to solve industrywide problems in health care.

For example, in 2001, Medical Alley announced a structural change that launched two "spin-off organizations"—Alley Institute and Alley Ventures. Alley Institute is a nonprofit organization that was created to impact and grow the business, workforce, and health care activities of the region directly. As a 501(c)(3) organization, Alley Institute can receive local and national foundation grants; it is also a conduit of Small Business Administration (and Small Business Innovation Research) grants for small and emerging medical technology companies. A sample of the projects launched thus far includes

• MAC-CIM (Medical Alley's Consumer-Coverage Interface Model)—Designing and alpha testing of a process to use peoples' personal values to design their health care coverage benefits.

• Minnesota Partnership for End of Life Care—Working together with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, HealthPartners, Allina, and Fairview to manage a grant focused on improving health care at the end of life.

• Class in a Box™—Partnering with WomenVenture to bring innovative tools and materials directly to seventh and eighth graders in their classrooms, a project designed to get kids excited about the wide variety of careers in health care.

• Managing small medical technology companies—Along with the University of St. Thomas, in St. Paul, Minnesota, developing an 11-week mini-MBA course in medical technology management. The faculty includes Medical Alley members who provide real-world experience.

A for-profit organization, Alley Ventures was designed to provide seed and early stage capital funding for small and emerging companies in the areas of medical devices, bioscience, life sciences, and health care. In addition to providing financial support (currently in the range of $50,000-$1,000,000), Alley Ventures also offers assistance in management as well as clinical, engineering, and governing board expertise.

Furthermore, Medical Alley is active in state legislative lobbying, with a government committee and two legislative consultants at the state level. The association also participates in national advocacy and lobbying activities, for example, working with US senators and legislators on the Medical Device User Fee and Modernization Act of 2002.

The host of approx 80 educational seminars annually, Medical Alley promotes interactive learning opportunities at which participants can network and discuss current issues, trends, and regulations affecting the health care industry; such forums are directed primarily to clinical studies, marketing/communications activities, regulatory affairs, reimbursement issues, research and development, and human resources in health care.

In 2004, Medical Alley, in collaboration with the University of Minnesota's Biomedical Engineering Institute, sponsored its

Table 3

Department of Physiology at the University of Minnesota: Chairs/Interim Heads

Table 3

Department of Physiology at the University of Minnesota: Chairs/Interim Heads

Physiology department chair/interim head


Years served

Richard O. Beard

Department chair

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