With $294M, Kamen Hopes to Bring Regenerative Medicine “Up to Scale”

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will not be doing the basic science. We will be doing the transition to volume—qualified, reliable systems.

X: Will the institute have a designated staff, lab and office space, et cetera?

DK: We set up a not-for-profit that we call ARMI. It was important to us [for the name to include] “manufacturing,” not “medicine.” We are bringing the technology to the medical community. We thought it was appropriate to call it ARMI because it’s being [partially] funded by the Department of Defense and because with a lot of the early stuff that we will be doing, the focus will be on meeting the needs of war fighters.

We have been trying to get a good cross-section of pharma companies, industrial companies, medtech companies, [and] little startups coming out of university labs.

ARMI is centered here in New Hampshire. Early on, a lot of my DEKA folks are doing the work to help set it up and organize the meetings with all the researchers and industry partners. We took a whole building in the [Manchester] Millyard next to one of [DEKA’s] and are in the process of building lab space in it now, specifically to be used by members in the consortium. We are also in the process of finding people to lead ARMI internally.

X: Will all projects that receive funding be required to have some potential application for the military/defense department?

DK: That was one of the first questions I asked the DoD folks. Their answer, I think appropriately, was “Let’s be serious here. Nobody knows how to predict, with any accuracy, where a given technology will end up being useful.” They said, “Dean, we’re trusting you and your judgment and the people around you to understand that we expect regenerative medicine will be useful to all citizens of this country, and eventually all citizens of the world. But we would hope that we will give special attention early on to applying what we’re doing to meet the unusual and specific needs of our war fighters, who deserve some special attention when they come back missing a limb or with severe burns or missing bone and tissue.”

So we said, “Obviously, anything that we can do to help these people will of course help the whole field of medicine and lots of other people.” We are highly sensitized and motivated to direct a lot of our early work to be sure that it can meet the needs of the military. One reason is that they’re a big source of funding. Another is that a significant reason that I and many people are involved in this program is we feel committed to give back to these people that are giving so much for us. In many cases, literally they’ve given their arms and legs for this country. We owe them a lot.

X: Did the results of the presidential election cause you to feel any more or less optimistic about the institute’s ability to attract additional funding from the government?

DK: Of the many subjects I have little to no expertise in, politics is probably near the top of that list. And I’m going to try to spend the rest of my life keeping it that way. I think we will understand all the fundamental laws of this universe of ours long before I understand politics.

I have been simply told that this program is important. I have been told, “Look at 21st Century Cures,” which was passed bipartisan. Everybody in Congress knows people that are suffering … Next Page »

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