MedStar Health and Cleveland Clinic Innovations Announce Key Milestone in Developing a Device to Assist Breathing

‘Licensing deal is a first for technology-focused Innovation Alliance Network.’

MedStar Health, in collaboration with Cleveland Clinic Innovations, has signed a deal with InnoVital Systems of Beltsville, MD, to license patent rights for a device that potentially could make it easier for patients with severe lung and neuromuscular diseases to breathe.

The deal is the result of a unique Healthcare Innovation Alliance between MedStar Health and Cleveland Clinic Innovations–the first of its kind when it was initiated two years ago and now one of six such alliances nationwide. The MedStar-Cleveland Clinic Innovations relationship is one of the first to reach this important milestone toward bringing an invention to market. The Healthcare Innovation Alliance Network is a collaborative relationship where healthcare providers, universities and corporate partners seek to improve patient care through medical innovations.

“When the Healthcare Innovation Alliance, including MedStar Health was established, the goal was to extend Cleveland Clinic Innovations’ model to assist alliance members in bringing transcendent ideas to the marketplace in order to extend and improve patient life,” said Thomas J. Graham, MD, Chief Innovation Officer at Cleveland Clinic and Justice Family Chair in Medical Innovation “This accomplishment represents the type of activity that we anticipated and it is gratifying to see these groundbreaking ideas advance toward commercialization.”

The device is called InVent Diaphragm Assist Device (DAD), and its inventor is William Krimsky, MD, director of the Center for Interventional Pulmonology at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center in Baltimore. Dr. Krimsky knew that a mechanical assist device could be a breakthrough for his patients with seriously impaired lung function. So, he took his idea to MedStar’s Inventor Services, part of the MedStar Institute for Innovation that exists to advance the best ideas of MedStar associates. They introduced him to engineers at InnoVital who have numerous inventions for the defense industry. Together, they realized that InnoVital’s artificial muscle technology, which has been used to control helicopter blades and move a robot’s mechanical arms, could be the basis for this new medical device.

The implanted device would mechanically assist the diaphragm, the large muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen and controls breathing. The device, which can be thought of as an implantable ventilator, would supplement natural human physiology by assisting the diaphragm in drawing air into the lungs. It is a pulmonary analogue to ventricular assist devices, which have revolutionized care for patients with heart failure.

Dr. Krimsky said the device could greatly improve quality of life for critically ill patients who face impending pulmonary failure. Instead of being placed on a ventilator, they could remain at home and have the ability to go out with family and friends, he said. Candidates for the device include patients with neuromuscular diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease), muscular dystrophy, interstitial lung disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

“One of the foundational principles behind the creation of the MedStar Institute for Innovation is that a tremendous amount of creative and intellectual capital exists throughout MedStar Health. The Healthcare Innovation Alliance that we formed with the Cleveland Clinic enables us to tap into the core of that great energy and unleash it,” said Mark S. Smith, MD, Director of MedStar Institute for Innovation. “This important milestone of licensing the rights to the diaphragmatic assist device, an invention which has real potential to substantively improve the lives of innumerable patients, is confirmation that MedStar made the right bet, and that our burgeoning Healthcare Innovation Alliance will advance MedStar Health and the state of patient care.”

About MedStar Health

MedStar Health is a not-for-profit health system dedicated to caring for the families of Maryland and the Washington, D.C. region, while advancing the practice of medicine through education, innovation and research. MedStar’s 30,000 associates, 6,000 affiliated physicians, 10 hospitals, multiple ambulatory care and urgent care centers, and the MedStar Health Research Institute are recognized regionally and nationally for quality and service excellence. MedStar, the medical education and clinical partner of Georgetown University, trains 1,100 medical residents annually. MedStar Health’s patient-first philosophy combines care, compassion and clinical excellence with an emphasis on customer service. For more information, visit

About the MedStar Institute for Innovation

MedStar Institute for Innovation (MI2) was chartered by Ken Samet, President and CEO of MedStar Health, in 2009 and serves as a catalyst and seed crystal for innovation across the entire MedStar organization. The mission of MI2 is to catalyze innovation that advances health; its mantra is “Think Differently.” MI2’s foundational premises are:

1. A huge amount of untapped and under tapped creative and intellectual energy exists at MedStar

2. the tyranny of the daily trumps the pursuit of the remarkable (…in the absence of a countervailing force). MI2’s scope includes initiatives in human factors engineering, education and simulation training, information infrastructure, technology development and commercialization, and processes and systems of care delivery. 

About Cleveland Clinic Innovations

Cleveland Clinic Innovations is responsible for company creation, business development and commercialization of all medical technology throughout Cleveland Clinic and its Innovation Alliance partners. Since it was founded in 2000, Cleveland Clinic Innovations has filed for over 2,200 patents, has more than 500 active licenses and has 66 spin-off companies that have received $750 million in equity investment. Nearly 1,100 jobs have been generated as a result of Cleveland Clinic Innovations and its spin-offs, having a significant impact on economic growth in Northeast Ohio. Its Alliance partners include hospitals and universities throughout the United States. Visit us at

About InnoVital Systems, Inc.

InnoVital Systems is an advanced technology company spun out of Techno-Sciences, the Maryland Tech Council High Technology Company of the Year in 2010 and a Deloitte Fast 500 Awardee in 2009, 2011, and 2012. Beltsville, Maryland-based InnoVital has two operating units, InnoVital Defense and InnoVital Health.

Inspired to act by the limitations of today’s medicine and the possibilities of a better tomorrow, and powered by a multidisciplinary group of creative clinicians and engineers, InnoVital Health is poised to make new and meaningful medical device solutions available to patients. InnoVital Health’s unconventional approach combines insights from the clinic, ER, OR and ICU with deep knowledge of product design, advanced sensor and actuator technologies, signal processing and control theory, and cutting edge electronics and software design to build products that improve health and quality of life.