Last autumn, I was searching for a way to get rid of the nerve-zapping pain that hit every time the barometer made a steep jump. My face full of post-plane crash titanium and regenerated bone acted like a weather station. I couldn’t find doctors with experience in my kind of injury. “Folks with injuries like yours are usually dead . . .”
My husband turned to the military world, with the recent flood of soldiers with faces and other body parts that need rebuilding. He found a team at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas reporting on repairing maxillofacial trauma for soldiers injured in Iraq.
The team was very willing to help out a civilian. David B. Powers, MD, now director of facial trauma surgery at the Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point, in Hudson, Fla., offered to present my case at the upcoming course he was co-chairing –“Challenges and Advances: A Focus on Ballistic Injury Management.”
The course trained surgeons being deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan on advanced techniques developed by military doctors innovating on the battlefield. The chairmen made the point that civilian teaching centers are providing “outdated principles of management” to surgical trainees.
My CT scans supported a lively discussion among the group. Unfortunately, it turns out there is still more to learn about effective treatment of pain in rebuilt body parts. Tissue engineering, especially to replace titanium in face and skull reconstruction, is in development in part to help with problems caused by sticking a rigid material in a place that needs some flexing. But this group provided a lot of insight about how to move forward and connected me to surgeons with relevant experience, giving me hope.
This also is the raison d’être for Force Care Foundation, founded in May 2012 to bridge the gap between bio-entrepreneurs and military medical entrepreneurs to get innovative treatments to troops, veterans and civilians.
Why should the biomedical industry care about this?
- The military has funding to support development of drugs and devices. Yes, you heard me right ‑ funding. And they probably don’t want a board seat.
- The military has clinical expertise and access to large patient populations needing new treatments for traumatic brain injuries (TBI), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), multiple limb loss, and injuries to vision and hearing. These war wounds are estimated to cost the U.S. $500 billion to treat over the lifetime of the soldiers.
- Many of these patient populations have civilian counterparts woefully underserved by our industry.
- Areas of military strategic interest include tools to model, diagnose, treat and prevent TBI and other neurological injuries; tissue engineering and improved prosthetics; and non-addictive pain management. These intersect pretty darned well with expertise of biotech and medical device entrepreneurs.
- And most biomedical companies have never heard about any of this.
Force Care’s Founder and long-time bio-entrepreneur Constance McKee learned about this opportunity gap and started building a network through the labyrinth of military management. Along the way, she recruited me to join the board.
Want to Learn More?
Coming up Nov. 9, 2012, Force Care partners with the Yale Healthcare and Life Sciences Club at Yale School of Medicine (New Haven, CT) to host Defense Health 2012: Clinical Needs and Funding Opportunities for Small Businesses.
This half-day conference will present the clinical challenges of caring for wounded soldiers, and introduce the potential sources of funding for product development – the U.S. Army Medical Research & Materiel Command (MRMC) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
Our keynote speaker will be Gen. Peter Chiarelli (ret.), former Vice Chief of Staff Army, and CEO of One Mind for Research. Speakers from the U.S. Army Medical Research & Materiel Command, and the Veterans Administration of West Haven, Conn., round out the event.
Join us – this may be a great way to do well by doing good.
Cynthia Robbins-Roth was the founding editor-in-chief of BioWorld and BioVenture Publishing, and co-founder of BioVenture Consultants. She currently works in the mental health social services field. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information and opinion on the opportunity and challenges offered by the military experiences and patient populations, check out the “What We’re Reading” section on Force Care’s website.
You can download slides from ForeCare’s June 2012 webinar by Paul Michaels, of U.S. Army Acquisitions, providing an overview of the grant submission process at MRMC by clicking here.