Bringing Medical Devices to Market

Wodlinger, Harold

Harold Wodlinger, Alumnus and Commercialization Pioneer

Harold Wodlinger knows medical devices—and how to bring them to market.

Dr. Wodlinger began his career in the medical device industry at the Institute of Biomedical Engineering—the Institute’s name before it merged with the Centre for Biomaterials and the Tissue Engineering Group in 1999. He received his MASc in 1977 and his PhD in 1979. At that time, students graduated from a collaborating department, though their enrollment was entirely within the Institute. His PhD supervisor was Professor Emeritus Hans Kunov.

“Harold was an exceptional student in every respect,” recalled Kunov. “One detail I always remember is that he would request a meeting of a certain length – say, twenty minutes; he would come, well prepared, with alternative solutions to discuss and choose from. And then—at the end of the twenty minutes, precisely, he would say ‘thank you’ – and leave.”

Perhaps it was this aptitude for organization that contributed to Wodlinger’s notable record in industry. After graduation, Wodlinger found employment as a biomedical engineer at Wellesley Hospital. “I learned how doctors and nurses interact with medical equipment, how it is used on a day to day basis, and all about hospital politics. That experience has proven invaluable throughout my entire career. I could not have landed the job without my education at the Institute,” Wodlinger affirmed in an interview.

After Wellesley, Wodlinger’s career in medical device commercialization began to expand quickly. He became Chief Engineer at Madsen Electronics, a company that designed and manufactured diagnostic equipment in audiology. At Madsen, Wodlinger learned about designing for commercialization, and about quality, manufacturing, and marketing. Kunov was a consultant to Madsen. “At that time, most of the professors had consulting jobs on the side,” remembered Wodlinger. “This was encouraged in order to give the professors some relevant industrial experience,” he noted. He also had a short stint at the Biomedical Instrumentation Development Unit, a body created to facilitate the commercialization of products developed at the Institute.

It wasn’t long before Wodlinger co-founded Biomedical Instrumentation, a world leader in cardiology diagnostic equipment. The company developed the first commercial cardiac mapping system and the first digital electrophysiology recording system. It sold over five hundred systems in a dozen countries. The company was sold to the Quinton Instrument Company, and continued to operate as Quinton Electrophysiology in Canada. Wodlinger remained as President of the division for six years post-acquisition.

Over the course of his career, Wodlinger continued to lead in the field of commercialization of medical devices. As a consultant, Wodlinger advised medical device companies, venture capital companies, and individual inventors. His assignments included product development, strategic planning, independent member of boards of directors, due diligence for potential investments, invention licensing, and market surveys. He is a Director at both ValveXchange, a company that developed a new generation of heart valves, and at VisualSonics, a company that successfully commercialized ultrasound technology invented at Sunnybrook Hospital. As Vice-President of Product Development at Cardioinsight Technologies, he helped commercialize a breakthrough technology designed to improve the diagnosis and treatment of electrical disorders of the heart. He is listed on numerous patents for his work here.

“My time at the Institute gave me a very solid foundation in medical engineering, and I could not have succeeded without this background,” said Wodlinger in an interview. “It also gave me the motivation to pursue a career in medical devices. Finally, I learned a lot about project management through my thesis project. Also, it was a lot of fun and a great experience overall.”