San Diego Business Journal: Opinion: Medical Innovators to Be in Spotlight in S.D.


By Carol Cox, Op-Ed to the San Diego Business Journal
Sept. 28, 2015

San Diego — There’s a revolution taking place in our own backyard. Innovative medical devices and diagnostic tests are changing the way medicine is being practiced, providing new and transformative solutions for age-old health problems. These successes are having a profound impact on patient health and San Diego’s economy.

CaptureConsider the health benefits advanced medical devices provide every day. Implantable pacemakers and defibrillators preserve life for thousands of heart patients. Artificial hip and knee replacements prevent disability, allowing people to lead productive, enjoyable lives. Insulin pumps offer type 1 diabetes patients better tools to control their blood sugar. These medical technologies save lives, alleviate pain, help manage chronic disease, reduce hospital stays and improve quality of life.

These products, and the people who make them, have an added impact on our local communities. Here in San Diego, medical device and diagnostics companies employ more than 7,500 people in San Diego and nearly 75,000 statewide, a significant slice of the 270,000 biomedical jobs in California, according to the California Life Sciences Association.

My company, NuVasive, employs more than 500 people in San Diego at our corporate headquarters, including engineers from a variety of disciplines and clinical and validation researchers. These are highly skilled and high-wage jobs. The average annual wage at one of California’s more than 1,500 device and diagnostic companies is about $87,000.

Making a Mark

The medical technology industry and life sciences as a whole have long made their mark on San Diego. Researchers at UC San Diego, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, The Scripps Research Institute and other facilities make and advance critical basic research discoveries. ResMed, DexCom, Sequenom and Illumina and many other companies translate these findings into new medical innovations. And companies such as Thermo Fisher Scientific and K-Tube provide tools and equipment to support medical research and product development.

At NuVasive, we are focused on transforming spine surgery with minimally disruptive, procedurally-integrated solutions. As a pioneer in the space, we have introduced innovative technologies that have reshaped the market and brought further focus on providing safer and predictable clinical outcomes.

These advances will be front and center the week of Oct. 5, when the world’s medical technology innovators visit our city for the first time for the AdvaMed 2015 conference. At this unique gathering, representatives from more than 1,000 companies, from dozens of countries, will come together to discuss the opportunities and challenges facing the medical technology sector.

Needless to say, these are critical discussions. Before a new device or diagnostic makes its way to patients, it must undergo review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and navigate increasingly complex coverage and payment processes. The federal medical device excise tax is sapping resources otherwise directed toward research and new jobs. And here in California, we face a business environment that is, at the least, a challenge.

The medical technology industry has had many successes over the past 50 years, but there are still hundreds of unmet medical needs that must be addressed.

Companies need to further invest in finding genetic markers in cancer so patients can get the best possible treatments; develop diagnostics that identify neurodegenerative diseases as early as possible; and develop innovative procedures and new devices to help patients maintain the quality of life they want and deserve.

When AdvaMed 2015 opens its doors, innovative companies will continue the important process of improving care. The insights gleaned from this meeting will help accelerate new technologies and make life better for patients everywhere. But even after the conference leaves, San Diego companies will continue to demonstrate their leadership, revolutionizing health care and generating impressive gains for the local economy.

Carol Cox is an executive vice president of NuVasive Inc.

View the Op-Ed at the San Diego Business Journal (subscription may be required).