The history
of Medical Alley

How Minnesota visionaries started a worldwide healthcare movement.

Fostering the healthcare community from day one

From its inception, the Medical Alley has led the worldwide health community, but it all began in Minnesota.

Founded in 1984, the organization was the brainchild of three prominent Minnesotans: Medtronic founder, Earl Bakken; 3M leader, Lee Berlin; and then-Minnesota Governor, Rudy Perpich. By fostering the healthcare industry in Minnesota, they hoped to increase prosperity in the region and advance healthcare for all of mankind.  

With hundreds of healthcare companies already in Minnesota at the time, they deemed the region “Medical Alley”—comparing Minnesota’s healthcare prowess to Silicon Valley’s tech dominance.

"There are few places in the world like Minnesota, where entrepreneurs, doctors, business leaders, government officials, professors, and others have done so much together to advance mankind's ability to take care of itself. This comes from a rare willingness on the part of our scientists and hospital directors to work with industrial leaders and entrepreneurs to innovate and launch new medical products and systems that result in  healthcare cost reduction for the world.

If one wishes to get help to launch, develop, or test a new medical product, Minnesota's Medical Alley is the place to be. In Minnesota, success in the medical field is rarely a surprise, it's an expectation—an expectation which has been fulfilled for a lot of people." 

— Lee Berlin in 1984 dedicating the founding of Medical Alley.

The ideas that sparked our organization

Medical Alley’s founders brought unique and complementary ideas to the creation of the organization that influence our work to this day.

Earl Bakken believed bringing together healthcare’s diverse communities—clinicians, administrators, payors, scientists, engineers, businesspeople, patients, and government—would result in lower costs and better outcomes. Forty years later Medical Alley is still the only organization with this cross-sector approach.

Lee Berlin and Governor Perpich wanted to put (and keep) Minnesota on the map. They believed Minnesota could be “The Great State of Health”—where smart people and innovative companies would seek out Medical Alley as the place to be. Thousands of people and hundreds of companies did just that.

Visionary foresight that still resonates

When you partner with Medical Alley today you continue the vision of Earl Bakken, Lee Berlin, and Rudy Perpich. The founders’ hoped the organization would:

Share Medical Alley’s healthcare innovations with the world. The founders wanted to draw attention to the incredible work being done in the region to help improve lives worldwide. By 1984, Minnesota had already been a leader in healthcare innovation for a century—starting with the Mayo Clinic in the 1890s, gaining traction when Bakken commercialized the battery-powered pacemaker in the 1950s, and continuing to the present day.

Foster collaboration between Medical Alley companies. One of Minnesota’s greatest strengths was (and is) collaboration between healthcare organizations. The founders knew collaboration and knowledge sharing would lead to the next generation of innovative companies and life-changing healthcare solutions.

Create an environment conducive to strategic growth for healthcare organizations. The founders also wanted to make it easy to run and grow a healthcare company. As a result, Medical Alley consistently paves the way for businesses by advocating for favorable legislative policies and subsidies, creating cooperative purchasing agreements, fostering partnerships across the industry, and more.

Today: Same goals, worldwide reach

Although Medical Alley is now a global organization with more than 800+ partner organizations, we still strive to fulfill the founder’s vision. Our work today still focuses on healthcare innovation, collaboration, and helping healthcare companies thrive.

A timeline of events

When you partner with Medical Alley today, you continue the vision of Earl Bakken, Lee Berlin, and Rudy Perpich. Here is a brief overview of what's happened the past 39 years.


The Governor’s Advisory Commission on Medical Technology Publishes, “Developing Minnesota’s Medical Technology Industry,” a precursor to forming Medical Alley Association. Read the report.


Medical Alley Association is incorporated as a 501c6 trade association representing healthcare and health technology.


Medical Alley merges with MNBIO and rebrands itself as “LifeScience Alley.”


Medical Alley (in partnership of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health and Medical Technology) incorporates the Medical Device Innovation Consortium to advance regulatory science.


LifeScience Alley changes its name to Medical Alley Association.


Medical Alley is featured in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in the “Places of Invention” exhibit.


Medical Alley launches Medical Alley Starts, a venture platform that lowers the cost of starting, scaling, and pivoting new companies.


Medical Alley hosts its inaugural Medical Alley Summit—bringing cross-sector health industry professionals to discuss critical issues that can transform the healthcare ecosystem.


Medical Alley refines its mission and vision, with a newfound focus on activating and amplifying healthcare transformation.

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