BY KELLY KENDALL
It’s no thicker than a sheet of paper. You probably wouldn’t even see it if you weren’t looking for it. But if you’re having surgery, a film from Sintact Medical Systems could save you a lifetime of suffering. The new Bloomington company develops polymer films that prevent surgical adhesion — when organs, or tissue adjacent to them, stick together due to surgical trauma.
Erik Robinson recently moved to town and is working with partner Gali Baler on getting Sintact Medical off the ground. The company’s product is based on Robinson’s research as a Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering at Northwestern University.
Traditionally, he explains, this same polymer has been used to coat a pacemaker or a stent — something designed to stay in the body. “All we did was peel off the coating, and the film then becomes a device,” Robinson says.
Preventing surgical adhesion will be a significant step forward. Also known as internal scar formation, it’s currently a common phenomenon, affecting 93 percent of abdominal-surgery patients, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. It can mean years of pain, annoyance, and annual appointments for maintenance, says Robinson. “It’s one of those things that doctors just live with and say, it’s unavoidable.”
Since moving to Bloomington with his wife, Alexis, a Ph.D. student in education policy studies at Indiana University, Robinson has developed an entire manufacturing-and-supply chain within Indiana. “I can outsource everything I need for this film to these companies,” he says. “Everything will be produced in state.”
It’s a prime time to be in the medical device industry. That sector accounts for more than 40 percent of the jobs in Indiana’s life sciences industry, and has propelled the Hoosier state to become the fifth largest in percentage of medical-technology industry employment, according to BioCrossroads, an Indianapolis company that tracks Indiana life sciences companies. More than 20,000 Hoosiers work in the medical device industry, according to BioCrossroads’ latest figures.
For his part, Robinson is ready to get things rolling. “I’ve received a really warm welcome and immediate response,” he says. “I did not know it was going to work out this way, but Indiana very much has a spirit of entrepreneurship.”