The first portable pacemaker was invented in a Minneapolis garage by an electrical engineer named Earl Bakken in 1958. Since then, Minnesota has a become a global hub of medical technology innovation and development--a crossroads of entrepreneurs, researchers, doctors, industry heavyweights, and financiers. The state has spawned countless medtech breakthroughs, from new types of artificial heart valves to electrical treatments for Parkinson's disease.
But Minnesota's long-held dominance in the medtech field might be waning, writes Sarah Laskow in the July/August issue of Foreign Policy. Sluggish regulatory processes, ossified business models, and foreign competition have driven firms and investors away from the Land of 10,000 Lakes and toward places like China, Europe, and Malaysia. If things don't change, the implications could be devastating for U.S. medtech innovation -- and for Minnesota's economy. "If the state's industry and the infrastructure that supports it can't adapt to changing circumstances," writes Laskow, "a hole could... rip open as medtech's epicenter moves to the other side of the world."
Here, photographer Christopher Leaman looks at the bleeding edge of Minnesota's medtech industry -- and the people behind it. Above, a scientist at the University of Minnesota's Lillehei Heart Institute displays a mouse heart from which cells have been removed. The institute is now hoping to repopulate it with human-induced pluripotent stem cells.