Spotlight: Neil Zimmerman, Ferolyn Fellow

Neil Zimmerman came to the current class of Ferolyn Fellows with a good idea of how much he would learn and how it would benefit his career. That’s because he currently works as R&D engineering manager at Half Moon Medical, a company housed within The Foundry, where he works alongside Matt McLean, a member of the Fellowship’s inaugural class.

Seeking a career where he could make a difference

Building on his interest in physiology and the human body, Neil pursued a BS in biological engineering from MIT, but it was later on at Stanford that he developed his passion for medical devices. He obtained his MS in mechanical engineering and took away valuable learnings from the Stanford Biodesign Innovation courses.

“Biodesign opened my eyes to the importance of needs finding and the wide array of cross-functional factors beyond just a good idea that contribute to the success of a medical device. Our clinical focus that year was cardiology. I quickly got hooked on the field for two reasons: the fascinating interplay between biology and mechanics in many of the unmet clinical needs, and the opportunity to develop life-extending technologies for a huge population of patients in need.”

After taking on several research fellowships and intern positions with companies such as Genentech and Medtronic to learn the ropes while studying, he jumpstarted his career in medtech at Edwards Lifesciences, where he spent five years. He started in the company’s technical development program, where he had the opportunity to rotate through various engineering and business functions, eventually landing in Edwards’ advanced technology division.

“The rotational program was a tremendous opportunity to venture outside my comfort zone in R&D and understand the breadth of stakeholders involved in medical device product development. Working in the advanced technology group was an especially motivating experience, as we were developing first-in-class devices for challenging clinical needs that hadn’t been tackled before,” said Neil. 

This diverse experience prepared him well to join Andrew Cleeland, the Fogarty Institute’s current CEO, and fellow Matt McLean at Twelve where he led the development of a next-generation transcatheter mitral valve. The experience he gained there was invaluable. “Twelve was truly a special place, with an incredibly talented and close-knit team. A strong culture of transparency and dedication unified the team and made it such a gratifying place to work,” Neil says.

Twelve was acquired by Medtronic, which provided the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of how a large company functions. After a three-year-stint developing the pipeline and supporting clinical cases, Neil felt the need to take on a new technical challenge. He soon joined Half Moon Medical, where he is working on a new structural heart project.

When asked what he loves most about his job, the answer came easily. “It’s a dream job to work on solving big, complex problems in areas of medicine where we’re still just scratching the surface of understanding. The opportunity to partner with physicians, see ideas come to fruition first-hand in the OR, and make a big impact on patients all make this such a rewarding career path,” said Neil.

Seeking additional knowledge through the Fellowship 

During his time in the Ferolyn Fellowship, Neil looks forward to benefiting from his assigned mentor’s, Jon Coe, wisdom and experience: “When you are working in a small company, everything moves so fast. I’m hoping the Fellowship will help provide an opportunity to step back and learn how to build the right team with the right culture, making it a special place like Twelve was for me,” said Neil.

The program also provides an opportunity to learn from fellows and mentors who are in entirely different sectors, from neuro to digital health. “It’s really eye-opening to dig deeper into the opportunities and unique challenges in other areas of medtech. This is great exposure in preparation for branching out of cardiology someday,” he added.

In his spare time, Neil trades his work shoes for soccer cleats, playing on a few teams in the area. As a former player for MIT, where he was an ESPN Academic All-American, he enjoys the competitive outlet. He also enjoys fly fishing, skiing and spending time in the great outdoors.

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