September 11, 2023

Irvine’s MedTech Hub is at the Heart of Orange County’s Healthcare Sector

By Bryan Starr, President & CEO, Greater Irvine Chamber

Published in the Sept. 11, 2023 Orange County Business Journal


If Orange County is one of the most dominant medical device hubs in the world, then Irvine is certainly the beating heart of the county’s ecosystem. That’s how Scott Johnson, president of DeviceAlliance—a nonprofit association for medical device professionals in Southern California—describes the role of Irvine’s MedTech sector. In fact, Johnson points to data that shows Irvine has helped Orange County to become the leading MedTech center in the nation, followed by Minnesota and Boston, Massachusetts.

MedTech, also defined as the life science industry, includes research, testing and medical laboratories, bioscience-related distribution, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices, which is the largest segment of life science represented in Irvine. Looking at the state and county MedTech sectors helps to put things into perspective.

California Snapshot

With roughly 13,600 MedTech enterprises in California, the state has led the nation with its meteoric growth in the sector—it has grown 6% since 2020.

The California Life Sciences Institute (CLSI) reports that as of 2021 the Golden State is the nation’s top medical device industry employer with a workforce of roughly 335,000. Combined with indirect employment, that number jumps to more than 1.1 million.

The average life sciences sector wage in California is $162,869 (more than double that of the U.S. average of $67,609). The state’s average is also significantly higher than the average wage for all other industries in California ($85,126).

The state’s life science sector and its supply chain produced an estimated $472 billion in economic output for the California economy during 2021. California accounts for nearly 30% of all the medical device industry revenue across the U.S.

There are 19 global-scale medical device companies headquartered in California, with the largest of them located in Irvine.

Life (Sciences) in the OC

As of 2021, of the 1,552 major medical device and equipment companies in California, 234 are in Orange County.  And these numbers don’t include the hundreds of start-ups in the county’s robust MedTech entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Orange County’s life science sector produced $46.0 billion in economic output in 2021, according to CLSI. Considering that just the top 10 companies headquartered in Irvine account for more than $7 billion of that revenue, it would be safe to say Irvine is the center of this economic activity.

As of 2021, the life science sector directly employed more than 45,000 individuals in Orange County.  If you include all the supporting suppliers and service providers, Johnson says you are looking at around 116,000 employees. The life science sector's contribution to labor income in Orange County was estimated at nearly $13.8 billion in 2021, with the single largest total contributions to Orange County employment being medical device manufacturing and medical and diagnostics laboratories.

Irvine’s MedTech Ecosystem Leads Nationally & Globally

Diagnostics is one of the fastest-growing MedTech segments in Irvine; specifically, in-vitro diagnostics, according to Johnson. Johnson says Irvine can be considered the neurovascular center of the U.S., if not the world. Cardiology is among other fast-growing areas of Irvine’s MedTech sector.

Irvine is a location of choice for MedTech companies. Some are major players leading innovation on the global stage.

Edwards Lifesciences, the global leader in patient-focused innovations for structural heart disease and the critically ill, calls Irvine home. While Miles “Lowell” Edwards established the roots of the company in Irvine more than 60 years ago, the current form of Edwards Lifesciences was established in 2000 with approximately 1,600 Irvine-based employees. One of the largest employers in Irvine and Orange County, Edwards has grown to more than 5,000 employees in the city today and more than 19,000 worldwide. Edwards has extensive manufacturing operations in North America, Europe, Singapore, and the Caribbean.

Edwards’ life-saving innovations, including transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) which it pioneered, are used by clinicians all over the world to treat patients with cardiovascular disease and critical illness. Many of the company’s innovations are considered industry standard and approximately 95% of its sales are from technologies in leading positions.

Masimo—which selected Irvine for its Americas headquarters because it’s a great place for people to live, helping to attract and retain skilled talent—began with 15 employees in 1989. Today, Masimo employs well over 900 in Irvine and close to 10,000 worldwide.

Masimo has made innovations that improve the lives of people around the world. Masimo Opioid Halo was granted De Novo for the first and only FDA-Authorized Opioid Overdose Prevention and Alert System. Opioid Halo continuously monitors physiological parameter markers to identify the risk of opioid overdose and sends escalating alarms to family members and caregivers. Masimo’s Stork smart home baby monitor represents a significant advancement in smart baby monitoring technology providing parents and caregivers a continuous and accurate view of their baby’s health data. The Masimo W1™ provides for the first time in a watch format, accurate, continuous health data for consumers to better understand their overall wellness and improve their fitness.

Braun Medical Inc. is a global leader in smart infusion therapy and safe and effective pharmacy products, patient and provider safety, and sustainable health solutions. With one of its primary manufacturing facilities located in Irvine, B. Braun manufactures, markets, distributes, and supports a comprehensive medical product line that includes advanced products for pharmacy, clinical nutrition, anesthesia—pain control, hemodialysis, and renal replacement therapy.

Johnson & Johnson’s Irvine MedTech campus was established and welcomed to Irvine in 2016. Today, the campus has grown to more than 2,000 employees and is home to several high-growth global MedTech businesses including J&J Vision, Acclarent, dedicated to minimally invasive ear, nose, and throat technologies; Cerenovus, an emerging leader in neurovascular care; Mentor, the global leader in breast aesthetics and reconstruction; and Biosense Webster, the global leader in the science of heart rhythm disorders. The company developed the first real-time, 3D cardiac mapping and navigation technology, and the first electrophysiology catheter.

Along with these industry giants are numerous other innovating MedTech leaders in Irvine, including Abbvie, Advanced Sterilization Products, Axonics, CathWorks, Inari Medical, and Medtronic Neurovascular, to name only a few of the 60-plus mid- to large-size life science companies in the city.

New innovations are continually on the horizon with entrepreneurial endeavors being supported by Greater Irvine Chamber community partners including UCI Beall Applied Innovation, University Lab Partners, Octane, Tech Coast Angels, Cove Fund, and Orange County Business Council.

Looking to the future, the DeviceAlliance MedTech Mastermind group recently met at the Greater Irvine Chamber to discuss the findings of a yearlong survey of more than 150 medical device entrepreneurs.

The survey revealed a need to educate the local investors on the complexities of the medical device space to attract Orange County investors to this sector. Currently, it's estimated that 75% of investment in MedTech comes from outside Orange County.

Johnson says there’s a need to take MedTech Infrastructure to the next level to help entrepreneurs bring their products to market to support global demand. Emulating models around the U.S., he says, will help the OC MedTech ecosystem build stronger collaboration between large MedTech players, governmental bodies, and universities.

Irvine was master planned around a world-class research institution. In part, because top talent is produced at University of California, Irvine, and other schools in the city, Irvine has some of Orange County’s best and brightest people developing, manufacturing, and distributing technologies, devices, equipment, and diagnostic testing. These advancements are transforming health care through early disease detection, less-invasive procedures, and more effective treatments. These leading minds are improving the lives of patients, here at home and globally, by advancing medical technology.

Irvine is fast becoming the nation’s leading hub for direct patient care. That distinction is only possible with medical technology as part of the equation.

Irvine and Orange County are among the strongest intellectual capital bases in the world. Our collective call to action is to foster an environment where we can mentor the next generation of home-grown talent. I encourage you to become involved with the Greater Irvine Chamber and DeviceAlliance to help achieve this goal.

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