WASHINGTON'S LEADING BUSINESS MAGAZINE

MedTech Prepares for Takeoff

The Wings angel group has an early success record, giving hope to a beleaguered industry.
Elizabeth Padilla |   January 2011   |  FROM THE PRINT EDITION

While venture investments in the medical devices sector fell 26 percent nationwide to $621 million in the three months ending Sept. 30, 2009, one local angel group is providing the industry with a bit of lift.

Wings, a nonprofit angel group established within the Washington Biotechnology and Biomedical Association (WBBA), held three meetings for investors in 2010, where nine companies presented their business plans. Five of the first six of them received subsequent funding either from WINGS angel investors or from other sources.

Angels are fueling innovation. In October, Dow Jones VentureSource reported that while angels—wealthy individuals putting their own money into private companies—invested more capital in 2010 than during the same period in 2009, venture capitalists invested less, especially in the health care sector.

Wings works by connecting companies with select investors who have industry expertise and contacts. Founded in May 2009, Wings is banking that, despite the recent trend, medical technology is ready to take off.

Wings’ volunteers—there are no paid staff—are all professionals with backgrounds in biotech, medical devices and biomedicine.

“They are not afraid,” says WBBA president Chris Rivera. “They’ve seen what works and have huge Rolodexes they can use.”

Interested startups begin by filling out a form on the group’s website. If promising, they are asked for further information. Detailed proposals then go to a screening committee that includes experts in regulatory approval, medical reimbursement and other areas. The three best proposals are presented to members at each meeting, says Wayne Wager, Wings’ co-chairman.

Wings may represent an emerging trend among angel groups specializing in specific market sectors. Another group, Northwest Energy Angels, for example, was recently launched to focus on clean-tech startups.

A few of the startups Wings has helped include Empowering Engineering Technologies, SRS Medical Corp., Impel NeuroPharma, Cardiac Insight and Innovative Pulmonary Solutions.

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