If you are fortunate enough to be born in Buffalo, N.Y., you had better like the cold and snow.
For Gregg Gellman, being born in Western New York was not an option, but fortunately, he loved the cold, snowy weather and became an avid skier and snow boarder. When it came time for higher learning, the aspiring young man went off to college in Vermont to study business and marketing. Turns out, he loved skiing more than he loved studying, so his parents called him back to the Queen City to get serious and hit the books more, the slopes less. At the University at Buffalo, he hunkered down—this time without a snowboard or skis underneath him—and earned an undergraduate degree in business and marketing with a minor in English.
Today, Gellman is still an avid snowboarder, but is more known as an enthusiastic healthcare executive who takes advanced medical devices to market, all for the purpose of improving lives. He’s a true entrepreneur in every sense of the word. His path to owning his own company, or two—like many others’—originated by working for someone else.
Formerly with Zimmer Biomet and Greatbatch, Inc., Gellman took advantage of the programs and courses offered by his employers. In doing so, he learned about patent and contract law, intellectual property, engineering and manufacturing protocols. As a clinical specialist, he was able to observe and participate in various orthopedic and spinal surgeries.
While Gellman enjoyed his time at Biomet and Greatbatch, Inc., where he helped produce novel battery management systems, he also became frustrated with the amount of time it took to commercialize medical technology. In analyzing the process, he felt he could do it better and faster if he were able to eliminate the layers of bureaucracy that are naturally entrenched in large corporations.
In September 2016, Garwood Medical Devices, LLC, was launched. By now, Gellman was certified in operating room protocol, orthopedics, osteobiologics, electrical stimulation, bracing and hardware, and blood-borne pathogens, and had completed requirements for HIPPA compliance in New York state. He is also certified in quality system manufacturing for medical devices: FDA’s QSR and ISO 13485 and global product submission directive requirements 510(k), PMA, and CE Mark.
In just two short years, Gellman and his business partner, Wayne Bacon, President and Chief Executive Officer at Garwood, have teamed up—along with four other employees—with support from the University at Buffalo, which has collaborated with GMD through various grant- and student- sponsored programs. In addition to the partnership with the University at Buffalo, Garwood Medical, Intel, and the University at Buffalo have received a $1 million grant from the National Science Fund to develop technology that combines implantable sensors, wearable devices, and software to better identify and monitor serious illnesses such as lung cancer. Also, Garwood Medical has secured $3.6 million in venture capital financing to support their commercialization strategy. Additionally, it helps that GMD was accepted into Startup NY, which defers state tax for 10 years.
Currently, GMD is creating a new generation of programmable, monitored infection control and novel wound care devices with the goal of mitigating infection resulting from injury and surgery. Imagine you have a wound—nine million people in this country suffer from chronic wounds—and it just won’t heal. GMD has developed—and been granted a patent for—the EnerAid Wound ™ Care Device, an innovative wound care bandage that uses electrical current to stimulate wound healing while providing a protective yet sterile environment for the wound and enables the patient to remain mobile. GMD also has an exclusive license from the University at Buffalo for the Orthopedic Implant Infection Control Device. It effectively prevents the growth of microbes on the surface area of metal implants using electrical current. The goal is always to alleviate the suffering of patients experiencing post-operative complications due to infection. Gellman believes FDA approvals are coming that will allow the products to be introduced to select audiences within the next 12-18 months.
Besides these issued patents, there are more pending, including a method and apparatus for metal implant contact detection through capacitive measurements, and a method to regenerate tissue at the site of implant. “At the end of the day,” said Gellman, “it’s about addressing intrinsic health needs. I’m passionate about the work. It’s not about me; it’s about the greater good.”
Gellman is also the Chief Operating Officer and a board member of StimMed LLC, where he started working with Dr. James Czyrny and Dr. Robert Kaplan earlier in his career. The company, led by Chief Executive Officer Peter Demakos, has developed a sock that uses electricity to boost blood flow by contracting the foot muscles. Gellman successfully redesigned the application for manufacturability and worked with the FDA to gain approval for both immediate post-surgical stimulation of calf muscles to prevent venous thrombosis and to temporarily increase local blood circulation in healthy leg muscles. Now, with the regulatory approval in place and design for manufacturing frozen, Gellman and StimMed are working with physicians to use the sock and are analyzing strategies for a broader market.
Gellman wants aspiring entrepreneurs to know that “time is money.” While it’s a well-used adage, it is important to have your financing in place, he advised. “Delays affect budget and deliverables,” he said, “so you need to be prepared.”
He also said that when you are in the kind of business he is in, “your team comes before you.” Although he is well-versed in the product-to-market process, and his persistence and enthusiasm are hallmarks of all he does, he readily acknowledges that he shares the credit with Bacon, his team, and UB.
"Surrounding yourself with a team that believes in your vision and is equally as passionate about the technology and work is critical to success,” he said.