Devices & Diagnostics, BioPharma

The Midwest can sometimes get overlooked by healthcare investors, but should it?

Although the Midwest might not be as flashy as the east and west coast, innovation in healthcare is definitely brewing. Our guests on MedHeads discussed how the region differs compared to the rest of the country.


On Friday’s MedHeads broadcast, we took at look at how maximizing innovation opportunities can be unique in the Midwest region of the country. Chris Seper was joined to discuss the subject by special guests Shaye Mandle, President & CEO of Minnesota’s Medical Alley Association, Kathy Tune from health care venture firm Thomas, McNerney & Partners’ Minnesota office and Ray Leach, founding CEO of JumpStart Inc., a non-profit venture development organization in Cleveland.

The Midwest can be a place of opportunity in healthcare for investors that many on the coasts don’t always recognize, especially when places like Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, Medtronic and Eli Lilly are present.

One thing that Tune pointed out was that people say it’s difficult to get people to the Midwest, but once people get there, to Minneapolis for example, they tend to stay because the quality of life is so good.

Leach mentioned that there is a very robust public/private partnership in Ohio in many healthcare sectors, so although the state might be behind in some ways compared to the coasts or other regions, there is a strong effort in place to compensate for that.

Minneapolis is known for being a medical device innovation hub, but as Mandle pointed out, there is also a lot of growth currently with diagnostics, digital health, biotech and pharma.

Tune, Mandle and Seper all mentioned how much the universities play such a large role in innovation in the Midwest, especially considering seven of the top ten school are located in the Midwest. “We have the ability to take advantage of what has transpired over the past couple of decades and the connections between innovation in healthcare and the marketplace,” Mandle said.

In addition to innovation coming from universities, all of the guests pointed to how legislation and local leaders in the Midwest play a large roll in moving  healthcare initiatives forward, particularly with the angel investor tax credit. In Minnesota, Mandle highlighted that the amount of money put in by tax payers has yielded a 10x return.

Funneling deals to other parties is general practice for venture capitalists, but Tune acknowledged it is much more rare that someone in San Francisco who has a hot deal would be picking up the phone to get that deal picked up in the Midwest, so that’s a challenge the region continues to face.

One of the main highlights from the conversation was really recognizing how much the increase in angel investment and diversification have definitely made a significant impact in the region, allowing entrepreneurs much more freedom for innovation.

The verdict is in on this one, at least from those present in the region – the Midwest is indeed a legitimate area for growth in healthcare innovation.

Tune in to MedHeads each Friday for conversation about the week that was in healthcare as well as specific topics pertaining to the industry’s ecosystem. Watch last Friday’s session below.