Lockheed Martin, a government contractor best known for its fighter jets, formally opened a health care center in Baltimore County Wednesday, part of a bid to expand the company's role in the medical sector.

While health care services still represent a small portion of Lockheed's business, company representatives said they see the opportunity to apply Lockheed's technology and security background to the rapidly increasing amount of data entering the medical field.


"We've done really large information systems in other domains, like defense intelligence … and health care is, I don't want to say just another domain, but it's going through the same pains and revolutions that we've seen in our other businesses," said chief scientist Michael Hultner.

Lockheed, one of the largest private employers in Maryland, has been hit in recent years by cutbacks in military spending, as the federal government has increased its role in health care through health care reform. Since 2008, Lockheed's workforce has shrunk from 146,000 to 116,000, and on Nov. 14, executives announced plans to cut 4,000 additional positions and consolidate operations.

About 2,000 of the company's 116,000 employees work in health care in roles that range from providing software support to performing medical evaluations, said Karoom Brown, a Lockheed executive director of strategy and business development. In the Baltimore area, Lockheed's health and life sciences division occupies six buildings and employs about 500 people, some of whom are based offsite.

"Over the last five years Lockheed's made a conscious decision to increase our focus and investments in health care," Brown said. Health care generates almost $1 billion in revenue per year for the company, he said.

The new center for health innovation is a glass-filled showroom with ergonomic chairs and portable touch screens located on the first floor of an office park on Lord Baltimore Drive near Milford Mill. The facility, which Lockheed formally opened Wednesday but has been in operation for about a year, includes a wellness center, where Lockheed employees can go for treatment and "tele-medicine."

The center will act as a hub where Lockheed can meet with clients and connect them to the company's technologies, which include developing the data processing systems and analysis that many believe will be critical to future advances in medicine.

"It's a good place where you can see all of Lockheed's technologies in one place; customers can touch and demo it," said Brown, noting that the location capitalizes on proximity to the Social Security Administration and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which use Lockheed for similar services, as well as other institutions, such as Johns Hopkins.

Lockheed's health care projects include efforts to design systems to sift and compress the hundreds of gigabytes generated by a single sequenced genome, streamlining the data into information that a doctor could use during an appointment with a patient, Hultner said.

David Seo, chief medical information officer and associate professor of medicine at the University of Miami, is working with Lockheed to develop computer programs that will use patients' medical data to ask and answer the questions the doctors want. He said the partnership is critical so that doctors can use data to help them prevent problems, instead of simply treating them when they arise.

"Most hospital systems — and even most university medical centers — they don't actually have the capability to do this work," Seo said. "It's really when you combine [efforts] that you can really push the field."