Nihon Kohden, the leading developer, manufacturer and distributor of medical electronic equipment, has had an illustrious history in innovation since its inception in 1951, when it developed the world’s first AC-powered eight-channel electroencephalogram (EEG) unit, changing how physicians track and detect abnormalities in the brain.
Since then, the company has developed a number of medical technologies that have transformed healthcare, including such notable breakthroughs as the world’s first pulse oximetry, cerebral artery pressure monitor and continuous non-invasive cardiac output monitoring.
It is not surprising that as Nihon Kohden has grown exponentially – increasing its revenue by over 50 percent in the past seven years to nearly $1.6B – it wanted to maintain sight of its foundation, which is rooted in the practice of innovation. That’s why in 2014 it launched the Nihon Kohden Innovation Center (NKIC), an R&D subsidiary based in Cambridge, Mass.
The mission of NKIC is to leverage America’s entrepreneurial environment and conduct early-stage research to ultimately develop disruptive medical devices that will improve healthcare. It focuses on several areas, most notably diagnostics for assessing disease states, improved patient monitoring algorithms and technology that bridges in-hospital use and homecare. NKIC collaborates with universities, hospitals, startups and like-minded organizations to conduct research projects and refine ideas that address unmet clinical needs.
Rather than operating independently, its unique model involves embedding its small teams of engineers within the partner organization. Recently NKIC selected the Fogarty Institute as one of its research locations to take advantage of its dynamic view into the startup environment, close proximity to El Camino Hospital, strong mentoring program and deep understanding of the industry, including established relationships with regulatory bodies and others in the medtech field.
The engineer co-located at the Fogarty Institute, Haruka Morimoto, has been with Nihon Kohden since 2009 and has created a strong track record of contributions towards numerous patents and medical abstracts.
“The Institute has been a great conduit to establishing relationships with physicians at El Camino Hospital,” says NKIC president and CEO Steve Weisner. “We can easily contact clinicians and freely discuss ideas for technology and devices, which can be an unwieldly process in Japan. The mentorship and experience of the executive team and board members has also been very helpful as they provide clinical background and guidance on Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval and connecting us to the right people.”
Other organizations that NKIC is partnering with include MIT, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and several hospitals in the Boston area. While it typically takes between three and five years for concepts to evolve from ideation to products, the feedback they have received from their collaboration partners has been very positive, with several ideas close to fruition.