Minnesota's med-tech economy has deep connections in a surprising place: Australia.
Despite the 15-hour time difference, there's a strong and growing link between Australian and Minnesota med-tech companies. Many Australian companies are adding jobs here and striking deals with contract medical-device companies in Minnesota. The strength and depth of Minnesota's med-tech economy is a big draw.
Connections have emerged over the years due in part to similar med-tech specialties, said Frank Jaskulke, vice president of intelligence for Medical Alley.
"There's this parallel path where, particularly in Victoria, the state where Melbourne is, they have a lot of neuro and cardiac stuff," said Jaskulke. "There's this long cardiac and neuro history where a lot of University of Minnesota and Mayo researchers have done work for researchers in Melbourne in particular."
Medical Alley forged a partnership with BioMelbourne in 2014, which has opened more collaboration. Medical Alley counts a dozen companies with Minnesota/Australian connections.
Minnetonka-based Osprey Medical was ahead of the curve. Although it's publicly traded there, Osprey does not have an Australian corporate address.
"The original idea came from a doctor in Australia, the original venture capital came from there and then we went public in Australia. But I don't employ anybody in Australia," said Mike McCormick, Osprey's CEO.
Osprey Medical makes a device to help reduce kidney injuries caused by contrast dye in catheterization labs for high-risk patients. When the company needed money for clinical trials, it raised $20 million from its Australian IPO in 2012.
McCormick said it would be very tough to go public in the U.S. without FDA approval, which it secured in 2015. It's easier for companies to go public in Australia, he said, but valuations there are lower than they would be for a publicly traded company in the U.S.
Saluda Medical, which is developing a spinal neuromodulation system, landed $125 million in equity financing at the beginning of March. In the wake of the new capital, its local office will be expanding.
"It was really a no-brainer for the company," said Jim Schuermann, CEO of Saluda Medical. "We felt like it was a competitive advantage for us to be in Bloomington versus other parts of the country."
Saluda is based in suburban Sydney, but Schuermann said the company considers itself to have dual headquarters in both its homeland and Minnesota.
The company opened its Minnesota office in 2016, which it expanded within three years. Today it's home to 25 of Saluda's 86 U.S. employees. The company is planning to add 50 to 100 U.S. employees this year, but not all of those jobs would be in Bloomington.
"We've got a number of former Medtronic employees," said Schuermann, who previously worked for Medtronic and Boston Scientific, and is based in the Boston area.
The list goes on.
Melbourne-based Seer Medical was one of four companies selected in March for the initial cohort of the Mayo Clinic Platform Accelerate, a business incubator designed to help early-stage artificial intelligence (AI) medical companies get market-ready.
Seer, which makes at-home diagnostics devices for epilepsy, was the only company outside of the U.S. to be selected for the program.
ImpediMed Ltd., another Australian med-tech company, opened an office in Bloomington in 2016. The company makes bioimpedance spectroscopy devices that measure a patient's total body water. That, in turn, can be used to diagnose or assess treatment for chronic diseases.
With each new Australian company to the Minnesota market, Jaskulke said, the connection gets stronger.
"You get this highway going back and forth and it's worked out really well," said Jaskulke.