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Jun 27

From concept to sustainable growth- lessons from the health sciences startup community

panel photo

The May 2014 Seattle Health Innovation Forum featured presentations and a panel discussion about taking health innovations from the concept state through the long journey to successful implementation and sustainable growth. This month marks the one year anniversary of the formation of the Health Innovation forum and this panel discussion was an active demonstration of the talented innovators who live and work here. The panel, from left to right pictured above, included Chuck Murry, MD PhD of the University of Washington’s Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine, Don Rule, CEO of Translational Software, Jo Masterson, COO of 2Morrow, Inc., John Foy, MD, medical informaticist, and Lance Stewart,  PhD, Senor Director of Strategy for the University of Washington’s Institute for Protein Design.

The areas of expertise covered by this panel was quite broad, from the genetic reprogramming of stem cells into living human heart muscles, pharmacogenomics reports to help physicians prescribe drugs personalized to patient DNA,  mobile apps helping consumers adopt healthier behaviors, and synthetic protein structures that can block influenza and attach cancer cells.  John Foy, as the moderator, focused the discussion on 4 themes:  (1) how they managed the clinical trials process, (2) how technology transfer agreements both helped and hindered the innovation process, (3) how they managed the multi-sided business models so common in healthcare, and (4) their experience in attracting and retaining the best human capital.

The panel agreed that clinical trial management is best handled by institutions that are already geared up for managing the FDA approval processes. Technology Transfer agreements are necessary to the process of getting ideas originating in federally funded research from the research institutions into the commercial world. It has led to the vibrant life sciences industry. However, over the past decades since the law was changed to allow universities to commercialize these breakthroughs it has created a bureaucratic process whereby “concepts” are overvalued by those who license them-  the problem of selling an acorn but charging for finished lumber. These issues are solvable but require time and skillful negotiation.by those whose primary interest is driving progress. The panel agreed that the presence in Seattle of world-class research institutes in the life sciences is attracting very strong talent from around the world.

When Dr. Foy asked the final question-  “what can we do to help” , Lance Stewart responded to the audience-  “keep doing this”.

Planning is now underway for the next Seattle Health Innovation Forum to be held in late July or early August.

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