Southern Research Institute, developer of seven FDA-approved cancer drugs, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham have partnered to develop new medical devices to improve healthcare in the US and around the globe.

A medical device is any medical instrument, as opposed to a drug, that is used to diagnose, prevent or treat a disease or medical condition. New diagnostic imaging, surgical tools and therapeutic implants are examples of what the US Food & Drug Administration defines as medical devices.

The strategic partnership, which is called the Alliance for Innovative Medical Technology (AIMTech), combines the research and discovery expertise of Southern Research Institute scientists and engineers and UAB biomedical engineers and clinicians.

They’ll take a patient-centric approach to medical technology development in five key areas, including cardiology, orthopedics, ophthalmology, rehabilitation engineering and trauma.

Southern Research Institute and UAB researchers will work together to create medical devices across all five specializations. The goal is for the first group of AIMTech-created medical devices to hit the market by 2020. By comparison, it can take 10 years to create an FDA-approved drug.

"Our partnership with Southern Research Institute in the Alabama Drug Discovery Alliance has already been a tremendous success," said UAB President Ray L. Watts, M.D.

"We have approximately 18 new disease-changing therapies in the ADDA pipeline. We’re pushing hard to bring them to market as new treatments as rapidly as possible, which could have incredible health care and economic development implications. We envision a similar impact with the AIMTech collaboration."

AIMTech will invent the new medical devices, help raise venture capital, establish small medical device companies, and manage the clinical trial and FDA approval processes. Major medical device companies will manufacture and sell the devices.

AIMTech will gain a return on investment through research grants, licensing, royalty fees and equity arrangements.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. medical device industry is expected to grow nearly 21 percent to $133 billion by 2016. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 27 percent job growth in the industry between 2012 and 2022, with a median pay of about $87,000 a year.