A front-page article titled “Osteoporosis Drugs Shunned for Fear of Rare Side Effects’’ in the New York Times on Thursday, June 2, addresses ongoing consumer fears about taking medicines for weakened bones.
The door appears to be wide open for new solutions, which means the timing was good for a recent announcement that Northeast Ohio Medical University researcher Fayez F. Safadi, Ph.D., and his team have received a grant from I-Corps@Ohio, funded by the Ohio Department of Higher Education. The award is to explore the marketability of a novel protein therapy called Osteoactivin, used for bone regeneration. This new therapy, developed by Dr. Safadi and his lab, could help people injured while serving in the military and individuals with genetic or trauma-induced bone defects, as well as the growing ranks of the elderly living with osteoporosis—estimated to reach 65-70 million people by the year 2020.
A different kind of grant
I-Corps@Ohio is an intensive seven-week program for faculty and graduate students from universities and colleges in Ohio. It is designed to demonstrate successful techniques in moving a technology from lab to marketplace. Successful entrepreneurs and business people will coach Dr. Safadi’s team and other grantees about the commercialization process – from how to validate the market potential of their technology to how to launch a startup company. The NEOMED group is one of 20 teams selected statewide.
To test the waters, the NEOMED team will interview 100 potential target customers for the use of Osteoactivin in clinical settings. Dr. Safadi said future clients will likely include surgeons in pediatric orthopaedics, trauma orthopaedics and sports medicine, as well as hospital administrators and insurance companies. The students on the team are required to actively participate in the interviews, said Dr. Safadi, who is the Principal Investigator on the team. His team includes graduate student Fouad Moussa and post-doctoral fellow Gregory Sondag, Ph.D., who serve as Co-Entrepreneurial Leads, along with Executive Mentor Elliot Reed, who manages private-public research partnerships in NEOMED’s REDIzone.
Dr. Safadi and his team will have weekly meetings to discuss their hypotheses and customer interviews, develop and revise their business model, and draw conclusions that may impact the future of their technology and start-up company. The participating teams will also make weekly presentations to a panel of successful entrepreneurs.
I-Corps@Ohio is modeled after a National Science Foundation program. The group trainings take place at The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business.