July 06, 2018

Commercialization of breakthrough medical research enhanced by national entrepreneurship program

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RS17960 business science workshop 32 1 1Molly Wasko, Ph.D., associate dean in the Collat School of Business, provides business tips for researchers and engineers to succeed as entrepreneurs. The University of Alabama at Birmingham Center for Clinical and Translational Science is leading the way in better preparing the nation’s biomedical scientists and engineers to extend their focus beyond the laboratory and broaden the impact of their science.

The National Institutes of Health National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences awarded a two-year grant for $1 million to the UAB CCTS as part of the CTSA Collaborative Innovation Award program to train biomedical scientists and engineers in academic medical centers on taking their innovative research from ideation to commercialization.

“Taking a new technology, protocol or intervention from concept to commercialization is often difficult for biomedical scientists and engineers in academic medical centers,” said Molly Wasko, Ph.D., associate dean for Research, Innovation and Faculty Success in the UAB Collat School of Business. “The reality in academic medical centers is that innovative ideas originating on campus are often met with seemingly insurmountable obstacles impeding their translation into improved patient care and outcomes. Our program is tailored to meet the needs of biomedical scientists and guide them as they seek commercialization.”

The award supports the creation of a national uniform I-Corps@NCATS program curriculum, the establishment of network capacity through a regional train-the-trainer program, and the development of a common set of evaluation metrics.

The I-Corps@NCATS pilot program addresses the challenges that arise in commercialization by creating a culture of entrepreneurial thinking among discovery scientists and clinicians through a tailored curriculum. During the five-week program, which is offered regionally several times a year, biomedical scientists and engineers are provided with a new approach to accelerate the translation of discoveries from the lab to clinical practice.

Benefits for researchers

 I-Corps@NCATS helps researchers determine the commercial viability of their innovation, develop a successful business case for securing funding, expand their network of innovation partners, mentors and potential collaborators, and develop greater self-confidence and a new way of thinking about how to value the impact of their research.

Upcoming Regional courses include: 
  • UAB, Emory and Georgia Tech at UAB, July 9-Aug. 6
  • Miami, Aug. 3-31
  • UC Davis, Sept. 21-Oct. 19
  • UMass, Oct. 23-Nov. 20
  • Penn State University, Jan. 18-Feb. 15, 2019

Benefits for science

The NSF I-Corps methodology is a defined, creative, problem-solving approach that combines training in the business model canvas with the customer discovery process. Objectives for the new I-Corps@NCATS national curriculum include:

  • accelerating the translation of biomedical discoveries
  • training academic researchers to become translational thinkers (via the I-Corps program’s customer discovery process)
  • increasing engagement in team science
  • producing more innovative research ideas and evaluating their commercial value
  • quickly prototyping and testing new solutions in clinical settings

Train-the-trainer program

Drawing on its extensive partnership role with NSF I-Corps programs, Venturewell has joined the I-Corps@NCATS team to adapt the I-Corps curriculum for academic investigators in the life sciences and to help support the regional programs. This will extend the reach of the I-Corps@NCATS program across the CTSA consortium through a train-the-trainer program. The I-Corps@NCATS program enabled by this supplement will accelerate the development and commercialization of breakthroughs in medical research. The partnership will train educators around the United States to help develop additional regional courses for researchers and engineers.

“One of the major aims is to develop a program that can be expanded across the CTSA network using a train-the-trainer approach,” Wasko said. “The UAB and Georgia CTSA region will have instructors from University of Miami, University of California-Davis and the I-Corps National teaching team.”

The CCTS partners with several CTSA programs across the country as part of this important initiative, including Georgia Institute of Technology, Hershey Medical Center-Pennsylvania State University, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Rockefeller University, University of California-Davis, University of Colorado-Denver, University of Massachusetts Medical School and University of Michigan.

Regional courses include UAB, Emory and Georgia Tech at UAB from July 9 through Aug. 6; Miami from Aug. 3 through Aug. 31; UC Davis from Sept. 21 through Oct. 19; UMass from Oct. 23 through Nov. 20; and Penn State University from Jan. 18 through Feb. 15. Participants attend two face-to-face sessions at the beginning and end of the course, while conducting customer discovery virtually during the three weeks in between.

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