News Column

Biotech CEO suggests state foster innovation

January 29, 2014

By Jared Hunt, Charleston Daily Mail, W.Va.

Jan. 29--The founder of a medical device research and manufacturing company says West Virginia has a great potential to grow an innovative biotechnology industry in the state.

Dr. Mark Bates, founder and CEO of Nexeon MedSystems, was the keynote speaker Tuesday at the fourth annual West Virginia Bioscience Summit at the Embassy Suites hotel in Charleston.

Bates, a Hurricane native, was a professor of medicine and surgery at the West Virginia University Medical School in Charleston prior to founding the company nearly ten years ago.

Since then, his company has patented 25 medical devices for a variety of functions, including spinal cord injury therapy, nanotechnology, regenerative therapy and stem cell implantation. In addition to the patents obtained, the company has several more pending.

Bates told attendees at the summit that the state should do more to foster innovation and growth among biotech companies in the state.

"There's no place like West Virginia," Bates said. "I really think there's an opportunity here."

He said executives and specialists in the field should focus on working together to attract investment and grow companies in the region.

"There's really some bright people here and we all need to come together and understand that we all can make a difference," he said.

He said his firm was able to take advantage of seed money from angel investors in the mid-2000s in order to help it grow. He said local innovators should focus on the "white space," areas where no one else has thought to innovate or develop products.

Bates cited one ranking that showed West Virginia was dead last among the 50 states and Washington, D.C., and encouraged people to try to work to change that through government and private action.

He said local leaders should try to foster innovation clusters, similar to what towns like Bloomington, Ind. and Salt Lake City, Utah, where companies like Cook Medical and Merit Medical have planted roots.

Bates said one plan involved building a similar cluster in Greenbrier County, where researchers could have access to the state's university talent pool, a regional airport for travel and local communities that are thriving.

He said for the state to successfully develop a biotechnology industry, it needed to work harder to cultivate its native talent. That included providing support to biotech businesses, building a necessary infrastructure, and doing more to attract and retain educated individuals.

Contact writer Jared Hunt at or 304-348-4836.


(c)2014 the Charleston Daily Mail (Charleston, W.Va.)

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Source: Charleston Daily Mail (WV)

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