26_Steve Alexander

President and Chief Operating Of, Integrated Medical Systems,
Inc. Signal Hill - CA US

Stretching an Idea

On August 7, one of the largest U.S. Army hospitals in Iraq sent a request for Integrated Medical's LSTAT, a revolutionary lifesaving device. The LSTAT, or life support for trauma and transport, is a stretcher turned portable ICU—complete with things like a ventilator, oxygen system, and defibrillator.

From Steve's original entry:

Tell us what you do (or what your team or organization does) and the specific challenge you faced.

In the 1990's, after creating the batwing-shaped, invisible-to-radar B-2 Stealth Bomber, the Northrop Grumman Corporation was looking to leverage its considerable technologies in new industries. Starting with hundreds of ideas narrowed down to a handful of new business ventures, they staffed these with their best, brightest and boldest: volunteer intrapreneurs. Each venture was given 5 years to meet stringent financial and technical hurdles. If they succeeded, they'd likely spawn a new company. If they failed, they'd likely be fired. Do or die. Few would survive. One of these, the Biomedical Technology Group, passed the hurdles and was launched as a new company, Integrated Medical Systems, Inc. But 'gone' were the millions of dollars of financial support from Northrop Grumman, 'gone' were the scores of people associated with the group, 'gone' were the state of the art facilities of a Fortune 50 giant. Intrapreneurs transformed into entrepreneurs: 5 people and less than a million dollars in contracts.

What was your moment of truth?

Borrowing from history, the team understood that one of the driving forces behind the growth of the automobile industry 75 years ago, the aircraft industry 50 years ago, and the computer industry 25 years ago was one of those "long waves" that run through a civilization: integration, the ability to combine multiple unrelated technologies into something more powerful, more meaningful. Today, the medical technology industry is fragmented and growth is stagnant, screaming for an integrator. The team decided to take what it knew about integrating cockpits in advanced aircraft and apply it to integrating the scores of medical, data and utility devices in the hospital, specifically, the intensive care unit. What the team designed was a portable intensive care unit only 5 inches thick called LSTAT ("el-stat"). The moment of truth came when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cleared the LSTAT for human use: the first integrated medical system ever cleared by the FDA (so unique was the LSTAT that the FDA wasn't sure how to categorize it). Bloomberg Financial attributed the more than 1% jump in Northrop Grumman stock that day to the FDA announcement regarding LSTAT.

What were the results?

Lives saved. LSTATs are sustaining lives on land, in the air and at sea. From Alaska to Iraq. From the race car pits at the California Speedway to units on loan to the White House Medical Office. LSTAT was recently introduced into the nation's largest trauma center, Los Angeles County Trauma Center, where initial indications are that LSTAT not only helps save lives, but helps save money, too. LSTAT has been recognized with the highest award of the standards-setting organization, the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation. And by the way, Integrated Medical Systems has been profitable every year.

What's your parting tip?

Do something for others: find a "long wave" and hold on for the ride of your life...and maybe someone else's.

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