Blue Belt Technologies Receives CE Mark for Navio PFS System

Blue Belt Technologies, Inc., a medical device company focused on developing the  next generation of “smart” surgical instruments providing precise robotic control for use initially in orthopedic procedures and then for other surgical specialties including neurosurgery, spinal and otolaryngology (“ENT”), announced today that it has received CE Mark for the Navio™ PFS System.

The Company’s initial market application in Europe is for Unicondylar Knee Replacement (“UKR”) which is commonly known as partial knee replacement. A partial knee replacement is surgery to replace either the inside (medial) or outside (lateral) compartment of the knee with an implant. Partial knee replacements are bone-sparing and have been shown to provide better surgical outcomes for patients with cartilage damage contained to a single compartment when compared to total joint replacement. The majority of partial knee replacement surgeries are currently performed using instruments which can be inconsistent and lead to high revision and retreatment rates.

Blue Belt’s Navio PFS System incorporates patented technology to provide additional control to surgeons via an intelligent, handheld, cutting tool coupled with powerful surgical planning and navigation software. The Navio PFS System provides the surgeon with a layer of safety and enhanced accuracy while performing bone shaping tasks through less invasive incisions. Jess Lonner, M.D., who is an Associate Professor of Orthopedics at Thomas Jefferson University and Co- Chair of Blue Belt’s Scientific Advisory Board, said, “There is a growing role for partial knee replacement surgery as patterns of arthritis become better understood, particularly given the changing demographics and expectations of our patients. The capacity for pairing conservative unicondylar bone preparation with a unique level of precision sets the Navio PFS System apart from conventional technologies and should contribute to rapid functional recovery and enhanced durability.”

Eric B. Timko, President and Chief Executive Officer of Blue Belt Technologies went on to say, “We are very pleased to receive CE Mark for the Navio PFS System. This initial clearance represents a significant milestone for Blue Belt and our efforts to become a leader in the field of Unicondylar Knee Replacement by providing the physician with a robotic instrument that provides for an accurate and consistent placement of the UKR implant, leading to a better outcome for the patient. We are excited to begin executing on our commercialization strategy in Europe and introducing the Navio PFS System to the physician community.”

Paradigm Partners announces support of applicants for Therapeutic Discovery Project Credit

A leading national tax service says that it is ready to provide immediate support to firms seeking funds through the new Qualifying Therapeutic Discovery Credit.  Paradigm Partners, with a regional office in Pittsburgh, says that it stands ready to fully support any area organization looking for either a tax credit or non- taxable cash grant from the federal government.
Daryl Milliner, Regional Director for Paradigm Partners says that applicants need to hurry to be considered for money from the program. Milliner went on to say that total funding for the project has been capped at $1 Billion.
Companies who are eligible to take part in the project include a wide variety of health care, life sciences, genetic, cancer research and health diagnostic companies with a present payroll of 250 or less.
Milliner says that Paradigm’s background in present R&D tax law makes the firm an ideal partner for any company applying for the Therapeutic Discovery Tax Credit.
To learn more about the Qualifying Therapeutic Discovery Project Credit or to set up an interview on the subject contact Paradigm Partners Regional Director Daryl Milliner at (412) 867-9400.

CCAC Study Identifies Emerging Careers in Region

A study commissioned by the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) spotlights industries that are expected to show the greatest growth in Greater Pittsburgh in the years to come. The study, conducted by the Hill Group of Carnegie, identified “Nexus Industries” that combine high-growth fields with information technology and manufacturing.

“This study provides a window on the future of Pittsburgh’s workforce,” said CCAC President Alex Johnson, PhD. “CCAC continues to be proactive in seeking out future opportunities and opening them for our students.”

The project arose as part of the mission of the CCAC–Allegheny County Workforce Alliance to strengthen workforce development initiatives in the Pittsburgh region. The Heinz Endowments  provided support for workforce development initiatives of the Workforce Alliance.

The Hill Group conducted both qualitative and quantitative research to identify, evaluate, confirm and examine high-growth and emerging industries as well as the skill sets they will require. The three industries identified in the study—healthcare and life sciences; energy; and financial services and insurance—were seen to have the most potential growth and economic impact, especially as they connected with the information technology and manufacturing sectors.

While all three are expected to grow, the study found that the employment outlook was best in the energy and healthcare fields. Energy is expected to grow most quickly, while healthcare is forecasted to generate the greatest number of new jobs. Growth in financial services, the study concluded, is likely to recover lost employment during the economic downturn and will not require significantly more workers.

The Nexus concept means that employers will be looking for workers with skills straddling two worlds. They must be familiar with the terms, concepts and operations of the high-growth industry but also skilled in aspects of information technology or manufacturing. For example, as electronic medical records expand, a medical practice will need employees who understand medical terms and how the healthcare field operates but are also able to configure a server or program a database.

Employers also said that “soft skills”—critical thinking, the ability to learn quickly and work well with others—and work experience were also important in employees’ success. This means that those looking to enter a second career may have an edge over people fresh to the job market.

This kind of hybrid training is becoming increasingly necessary. Someone with experience in manufacturing, for example, may want to return to school for training in energy-related jobs to be able to work where the two fields merge. Someone who has experience in healthcare could train in information technology to fill those emerging jobs.

“The study brings to light the acute need for training programs that prepare students with skills and competencies beyond traditionally defined occupation requirements,” said Chris W. Brussalis, Hill Group CEO and Carnegie Mellon Heinz School professor. “These high-growth, Nexus industries will need workers with a blending of skills that bring both industry-specific knowledge and competency in information technology or manufacturing.  Students trained with this “liaison skill set” will not only bring best practices to their companies, but will be more efficient and effective problem solvers and better equipped to meet the demands of today’s firms and those of tomorrow.”

CCAC already plays a key role as a connector between industry and workers, and it will continue to do so in these emerging fields. Many of the programs that can prepare individuals for the identified emerging industries are already in place. Through the Workforce Alliance, the college will continue to work with employers and organized labor to identify other training opportunities in the Nexus Industries.

“It’s important that people realize that these careers will require an interdisciplinary approach,” said Charles Blocksidge, PhD, executive director of the Workforce Alliance. “Focusing on just one field is not enough. Fortunately, CCAC offers a wide variety of options for students to build their skills in these Nexus areas.”

Medline Extends Distribution Agreement with ClearCount

Medline Industries, Inc. is now the exclusive distributor for the SmartWand-DTX™ and SmartSponge® System, the only FDA-cleared systems using radio-frequency identification to both count and locate surgical sponges. The systems, created by Pittsburgh-based ClearCount Medical Solutions, use a technology featuring chip-embedded sponges to count and locate sponges during surgery which, in turn, helps eliminate surgical errors and improve patient safety.

Retained surgical sponges are a big problem. They can hurt and even kill affected patients and cost hospitals an average of $63,000 in follow-up operation expenses (according to Federal Register and Medicare statistics) per incident, not including legal fees and potentially large settlements. Human counting error is the most common cause of unaccounted-for sponges being left behind. Integrating radio frequency identification (RFID) chip technology into surgical sponges — the sterile, absorbent textiles used inside a patient during an operation — gives surgeons and operating room teams a new tool to prevent the anxiety of a potentially devastating operating room error.

Conceptually, the process is a little like finding a coin on the beach with a metal detector, but much more high-tech and precise. Each sponge has its own ID number coded in its RFID tag. The SmartSponge System can read and record the unique ID number of each sponge as it comes out of its packaging in the OR, as it is used in the patient, and as it is removed and disposed of. Both the SmartSponge and SmartWand-DTX count multiple sponges and read through blood and tissue, and they can locate a missing tagged sponge using radio waves to signal the RFID tag to identify itself. Both systems also use the same RFID-tagged consumables, providing hospitals for the first time with a choice of devices to best address the unique conditions of each OR.

Despite designation as a “never event,” retained items are estimated to occur in one of every 1,000 to 1,500 abdominal surgical procedures. In one study using a retrospective review of medical malpractice claims data from a statewide insurer in Massachusetts, sponge counts had been falsely correct in 76 percent of non-vaginal surgical cases involving retained sponges. Falsely correct sponge counts were attributed to team fatigue, difficult or long operations, sponges “sticking together,” shift changes or procedures with a large number of sponges.

ClearCount Nabs Popular Science’s “Best of What’s New” Award

The editors of Popular Science have named Pittsburgh-based ClearCount’s SmartSponge® System one of the top technology innovations of 2009. As a winner off a “Best of What’s New” award in the health category, the SmartSponge System stands out as the first and only system to incorporate the efficiency of counting with the safety of detection for the prevention of left-behind sponges during surgery.

“We are honored to be recognized by Popular Science Magazine as a company that is making revolutionary strides in the improvement of patient safety and productivity in the operating room,” said David Palmer, ClearCount’s President and CEO. “This award is a reflection of our entire team’s passion and commitment in making a positive impact on the lives of patients, surgeons and OR nurses worldwide.”

Each year, the editors of Popular Science review thousands of products in search of the top 100 tech innovations of the year; breakthrough products and technologies that represent a significant leap in their categories. The winners – the Best of What’s New – are awarded inclusion in the much-anticipated December issue of Popular Science, the
most widely read issue of the year since the debut of Best of What’s New in 1987.