Nearly forty years ago, our organization—then known as The Alfred E. Mann Foundation for Scientific Research, or AMF—was founded with a clear public mission: to research and develop innovative medical technologies in search of solutions that address unmet and undermet medical conditions.
In September of 2023, AMF officially rebranded as huMannity Medtec. In light of our name change, we’re feeling a little introspective—so we’ve put together a story to reflect on where we’ve come from, and celebrate where we’re going.
Any discussion of our organization’s history and legacy must begin with an introduction to our founder, Alfred E. Mann (1925—2016). Al was a prolific technology innovator who founded—and largely funded—17 companies across his lengthy career. Two of those companies went public and ten were acquired, for a total cumulative value of ~$8B.
The first two companies Al Mann formed were Spectrolab, an electro-optical and aerospace systems company, and Heliotek, a semiconductor and electro-optical components manufacturer. Both companies were sold to Textron Inc. in 1960; they are now part of The Boeing Company. Subsequently, Al founded Pacesetter Systems, Inc., which developed and sold the first-ever rechargeable cardiac pacemaker(s) until 1985, when it was acquired by Siemens AG. Pacesetter is now the Cardiac Rhythm Management unit of Abbott.
Al’s entrepreneurial successes enabled him to make a significant philanthropic impact—in part, by funding research labs at academic institutions across the United States and internationally.
Throughout his career of innovation, it became clear to Al Mann that a large amount of promising academic medical research wasn’t making it to patients. He set about to solve that problem. In 1985, Mann established The Alfred E. Mann Foundation for Scientific Research—known colloquially as “AMF,” and the precursor to huMannity Medtec.
The Foundation was set up as an independent non-profit organization, devoted to bridging the gap between academic research and commercialization of medical technologies.
This “gap” is frequently referred to as the Valley of Death—an evocative term used to describe the period between research discovery and product development when progress on a project can stall due to a lack of funding or other resources.
In the medical innovation ecosystem, early research commonly occurs within academic environments that are either state-sponsored or supported by grant funding. Eventual commercialization of a market-directed medtech product is typically funded by venture investment and other sources.
But how does novel technology move from one side of this equation to the other? How does medical innovation make it to market and into patient hands? Oftentimes, as Al Mann observed, it simply doesn’t. This intermediate period, the time between academic research and venture capital funding, is when a project is at greatest risk of running out of money.
Unfortunately, it is also during this intermediate period when a project typically needs significant capital investment in order to develop the idea into a near-market-ready product that can command venture interest.
When Al Mann first set up his namesake Foundation in 1985, it was conceived as an R&D shop to help develop solutions for unmet or poorly met medical conditions, and to help guide those solutions to market.
In this capacity, our organization conducted what is now called “translational research”—work aimed at translating (converting) results in labs into results that directly benefit humans.
Al Mann tapped the lead scientist behind the rechargeable implantable pacemaker, Dr. Joe Schulman of Pacesetter Systems, to become our first President and Chief Scientist. Dr. Schulman spent the next 20+ years leading our team through a series of exciting, enormous projects that resulted in the development of several prominent medical innovations, including the first cochlear implant with bi-directional telemetry, and the first injectable micro-stimulator to restore function to impaired limbs and organs.
During his tenure, Dr. Schulman was known not only for his brilliant mind and breakthroughs, but also for his unique approach to working through the everyday challenges of life in a research lab. Our current CEO, Robert Greenberg (MD, PhD), recalls a day where Dr. Schulman arrived at work with an oversized, large-format printer—and then proceeded to paper the walls of the laboratory with schematics of a particularly tricky bit of miniaturized circuitry that the team was struggling to conceptualize [for more on that story, click here].
Over the years, our team and our specialties evolved. Our engineers and scientists brought hard-earned expertise and profound ingenuity to each of the projects we tackled. We developed robust capabilities in the fields of implantable device development, biocompatible materials science, the miniaturization of electronics, and even constructed and certified a small scale manufacturing facility. We added to our repertoire of specialized machinery and equipment. We brought in seasoned professionals from the regulatory and legal landscape, as well as experienced business leaders to guide our big ideas into product-ready reality.
By internalizing and, importantly, financing, the product development, manufacturing, and early clinical trials within one organization, while also receiving input and guidance from a business development team with commercial applications in mind from the start, our organization was able to shape product development in a way that better promoted innovation, efficiency, and long-term success of our projects.
From 1985 to now, our spinout companies brought new or improved biomedical products to market that revolutionized a number of product categories, including insulin pumps and glucose sensors, cochlear implants, spinal cord stimulators, visual prosthetics, functional electrical stimulation, and peripheral nerve stimulation.
In September of 2023, our organization changed its name from the Alfred Mann Foundation to huMannity Medtec.
Yes, we began as a translational research center. However, this description does not make visible so much of what has always made our organization unique—and a force to be reckoned with—in our industry.
We operate as a “product development pipeline” organization. While we conduct early stage R&D, we are not affiliated with academic research institutions in the way that translational research centers are. And while we may spin out startups for commercial marketing of a product, we’re not an incubator or accelerator for biomedical startups.
We focus on engineering solutions to biomedical innovation problems, and then following that process through to its ultimate fulfillment in clinical and commercial application.
Beneath this surface-level summary of “what we do,” however, exists a deeply-ingrained bedrock of curiosity, persistence, and passion that informs every aspect of our work. We know that life-changing ideas can come from anywhere and everywhere. We are driven by our desire to improve—to solve pressing patient problems that might seem impossible to surmount with status quo technologies.
For nearly 40 years, no matter our name, our mission and mandate have always centered around the human impact of the work that we do. Our organization was founded to bring life-changing medical technologies to the patient populations that need it most—and we're proud of our legacy so far. We believe that our new name and brand more directly reflect our commitment to patients.
As we move forward into the future, we have a broad vision of an even bigger impact. We are working to elevate the state of care for humanity. We will transform lives globally by continuously innovating and redefining the limits of medical technology innovation.
Keep an eye on the horizon—and we’ll see you there.