April 24, 2019

Gateway Park adding sandbox program for digital health

Photo | Grant Welker
Worcester Polytechnic Institute biomedical engineering professor Kai Zhang, right, explains to Gov. Charlie Baker how a robotic arm under development can help monitor skin conditions with better consistency than tests offered today.

A new Massachusetts state grant will help digital health startups work with larger industry players at Worcester Polytechnic Institute's PracticePoint facility at Gateway Park.

Gov. Charlie Baker announced the $500,000, two-year funding at PracticePoint on Wednesday in what his administration said is the first of what's expected to be a series of so-called sandbox facilities statewide. The funding will be shared among the facilities.

The facilities, like PracticePoint, are meant to help digital health startups develop and test their products and interact with existing firms.

Baker said the digital health industry, which aims to use technology to keep people healthy or treat illnesses, will rely on startups as it develops.

"It's going to be lots and lots of small entities with huge aspirational ideas," Baker said.

PracticePoint is a major component of that effort, with the first components opening in recent weeks.

Located at WPI's Gateway Park, the facility is funded by a $5-million capital grant from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, a $2.5-million capital and equipment grant from GE Life Sciences and a $9.5 million commitment from WPI for facility, faculty, staff and operational support.

Most of the facility is still being built, with space for firms to test equipment in mock hospital, home, rehab or assisted care environments. The second- and third-floor space at 50 Prescott St. was formerly home to Siemens and Primetals.

PracticePoint is open to corporate members who pay between $25,000 and $250,000 in a mix of cash and in-kind contributions. In return, they get lab space and equipment, and students to work with on research projects. Boston Scientific of Marlborough and Delsys of Natick have been announced as members, joining GE, MITRE Corp. and UMass Medical School as founding members.

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