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With New Biotech Institute, Manchester Aims to Be Hub for Regenerative Medicine

Allegra Boverman, NHPR
The Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute, or ARMI ("army"), will work on developing new approaches to biotechnology.

Dean Kamen brought the world the Segway and helped to transform New Hampshire's Millyard from a hollowed-out manufacturing strip to a growing tech hub. Now, he's setting his sights on making Manchester a hub for a whole new field of medicine.

Credit Allegra Boverman, NHPR

  It sounds like the kind of stuff that at one time was relegated to science fiction. An organ, grown from scratch, to replace one at risk for renal failure. A new, fully functioning limb for a soldier who lost his to combat. 

But that's exactly the vision at the heart of the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute, or BioFab USA -- a multimillion-dollar partnership led by Kamen and the Department of Defense to come up with new approaches to biotechnology. 

ARMI (pronounced like "army") launched primarily to help soldiers, but Kamen sees wide-reaching potential for patients across the board.

"If you had a choice of, you could treat my end-stage renal failure by sending me to a dialysis center three days a week for the rest of my life, or you can cure it, by giving me a replacement organ, which would you prefer? And if you could prevent the problem in the first place, which would you prefer?" Kamen said at an ARMI launch event in Manchester on Friday. "So, ironically this is one of those rare places where the technology that we're developing is one that is going to give you a better outcome, but it also lowers the cost."

Kamen nabbed a former top official at the FDA to get the institute up and running, and he said he's secured more than $200 million in funding -- in addition to the $80 million the Department of Defense put up to launch the effort.

"We told the Department of Defense within five years, we will have products that are being placed in or on people to cure conditions that are a result of what's going on in this place," Kamen said. "I'd like to think some of them are sooner than that, but that's our goal."

And the inventor's not the only one excited about it. 

"I love it," said Gov. Chris Sununu, one of several local dignitaries on hand for the launch. "Look, anything I can do to attract more geeks to New Hampshire, being a former geek myself."

Sununu was joined at the launch event by Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen, former Gov. John Lynch, former Sen. Kelly Ayotte and a number of other top names in the state's political, business and tech scenes -- the takeaway being, policymakers are seeing this as a big deal, and a big get for the Granite State.

Casey McDermott is a senior news editor at New Hampshire Public Radio. Throughout her time as an NHPR reporter and editor, she has worked with colleagues across the newsroom to deepen the station’s accountability coverage, data journalism and audience engagement across platforms.

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