It has often been said that engineers are the backbone of tech startups. To better assist its companies-in-residence, Fogarty Innovation has hired Jesus Magana as a full-time R&D engineer-in-residence. He brings deep experience in the field, including a role as an engineering specialist with Fogarty graduate nVision, which was acquired by Boston Scientific.
Humble beginnings lead to a life-long passion for tinkering
Jesus grew up in a family of six kids in rural Mexico, where they lacked even the most basic of amenities, like electricity and running water. But that didn’t dim his spirit, and early on, he began repurposing things in creative ways. When he was just five years old, he remodeled the rim of a bicycle wheel without spokes that he had found, using a few wood sticks to fashion an easier way to carry the wood needed for the kitchen fire, rather than carrying it on his shoulders. Known for his ability to be handy, Jesus found ready work on nearby farms, taking care of the cattle or tending crops.
At only nine years of age, his mom passed away, and life took a turn for the worse as his dad struggled with the loss. The family left Mexico to stay at an uncle’s house in Marin County in California, but they moved often, given the challenge of feeding and caring for so many children. Jesus worked hard to help provide food, but eventually the siblings realized they were unable to support themselves, and Jesus and two others returned to Mexico, where they took care of their dad and each other.
His penchant for creating came in handy as they built a shelter made of branches and reclaimed wood and ropes fashioned from palm trees next to a river in Jalisco. “We viewed it all as an adventure. We learned to make everything ourselves, including planting corn and making nixtamal and tamales from scratch, waking up at 3 a.m. to start the process.” While the community and family helped when they could, it was a difficult time; in fact, he didn’t attend school for nearly three years.
At age 18 he borrowed money to move back to the U.S. and found full-time employment in a produce store. He didn’t forget his roots though; he bought his first car and later sold it to send the money to his brother who hadn’t been able to leave Mexico.
Getting into medtech
After the produce job, Jesus did a stint in construction in Redwood City, then started his career in medtech at Heartport, a company that helped pioneer minimally invasive cardiac surgery, after learning about them through family friends. He started as an assembler doing final inspections and, despite little knowledge in the field, was quickly promoted to R&D technician by management who recognized his interest and impressive work ethic.
“While I didn’t know a lot about medtech when I joined the company, I knew I wanted to continue learning so I worked late hours and took on different projects without extra pay,” he says.
Jesus’ second industry job was at Ventrica, which develops surgical devices for heart bypass, followed by several other device companies, thanks in large part to mentors, such as Adam Sharkawy, who helped guide him and find opportunities. He later joined Abbott’s cardiovascular division as senior R&D/mechanical technician. “By this time, I was really understanding the medtech ecosystem and finding opportunities to continue learning. I became passionate about the rewards of helping patients and knew this was going to be my field moving forward,” Jesus says.
Constantly in search of his next challenge, he learned of nVision, a company that offers a platform for potentially earlier detection of ovarian cancer and in 2014 became its second employee, an engineering specialist. “I really enjoyed the team environment and the ability to brainstorm ideas to solve a very large and important unmet need,” he says. “The cause resonated with me deeply as my mom died of a tumor when I was young, and I felt compelled to do my part to help future generations.”
He stayed with the company and transferred to Boston Scientific when the company acquired the startup in 2018. While there, he had the opportunity to continue developing the product in Costa Rica. Thanks to his hard work and creativity, Jesus has acquired 20 patents to date.
Joining Fogarty Innovation
Having been part of Fogarty Innovation as a Company-in-Residence (CIR), Jesus was intrigued by the concept of helping a group of startups evolve so they could grow and benefit patients. He initially did some consulting for a few of the CIRs and now has joined the organization as engineer-in-residence, leveraging his expertise in working with early-stage companies and building prototypes.
“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to join this very experienced group of professionals and have the adventure of working with startups that are developing such important technologies,” he says.
During his spare time, Jesus enjoys playing soccer and volleyball, spending time with his kids, wife and family. An avid barbequer, his is especially known for his awesome ribs.