Developing a new way to detect diabetes earlier or to help a patient heal faster after spinal surgery requires a whole lot of determination.
It also calls for expertise in areas ranging from science to patent law and tech transfer – something no single person is likely to have. So, students and faculty from NEOMED took the opportunity to participate in a 10-week program of I-Corps@Ohio, an initiative of the Ohio Department of Higher Education that calls itself “a progressive method of training the scientific community in the commercialization process.”
The National Science Foundation-based I-Corps@Ohio program offers Ohio students and faculty hands-on training –including access to experts – using Lean Launchpad methodology.
Thursday, July 15, three NEOMED teams were among those to present their projects at the I-Corps Ohio finale, presented via Zoom. A faculty member was on each team of students as the Principal Investigator, along with Elliot Reed, J.D., program manager of the REDIzone – the business incubator at NEOMED.
Showing the audience how a product relates to everyday life helps to gain their buy-in, so viewers got to meet George, a 50-year-old overweight, sedentary man with a sweet tooth. George was introduced as a potential beneficiary of the APOmarker, a product related to high cholesterol levels in diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Andrea Arias-Alvarado, a graduate student at NEOMED and the team’s Entrepreneurial Lead (EL), presented the various current means of diabetes testing and their limitations, then described the group’s solution: Apolipoprotein A1. The value proposition: This product can detect diabetes earlier and improve health outcomes – including cardiovascular disease, which is related to diabetes.
Alvarado told Reed it was a bit disappointing to discover in interviews with endocrinologists (their potential customers) that the physicians weren’t very interested in the cardiovascular risk assessment test that the team had thought would be a selling point of the product. The endocrinologists considered such testing to be the cardiologist or internal medicine doctor’s area of concern. But as one of the medtech instructors encouragingly noted, that was important data to gain so that the team could move forward and focus on the need that the potential customers rated highest: being able to diagnose pre-diabetes and diabetes earlier. Such research is a focus of the team’s PI, Takhar Kasumov, Ph.D.
Each team finished the session by determining if they wanted to go ahead with their projects, with the route forward adjusted in myriad ways by all they had learned.
For the three NEOMED teams, the answer was unanimous: Go!
NEOMED’s teams at the I-Corps Ohio Finale July 15, 2021
Team name: APOmarker
Product: Apolipoprotein A1, a novel biomarker for earlier detection of diabetes
- Takhar Kasumov, Ph.D., PI
- Andrea Arias-Alvarado, M.D., Ph.D., student in the Integrated Pharmaceutical Medicine program at NEOMED
- Serguei Ilchenko, Ph.D., Co-PI
- Elliot Reed, J.D.
Team name: Fluoresblock
Product: A lab device to more evenly distribute the heat and improve the fluorescence signal stability of assays, thus reducing waste of reagents and assays as well as saving time for lab technicians
- Patrick Kang, Ph.D., PI
- Ava Cutright, University of Akron student
- Amber Dinchman, University of Akron student
- Elliot Reed, J.D.
Team name: Saccavi
Product: Osteoactivin, a protein that activates bone regeneration
- Fayez Safadi, Ph.D., PI
- Gabrielle Robinson, graduate student at NEOMED
- Ernesto Solarzano, a Ph.D. student in Dr. Safadi’s lab
- Timothy Nagy, an MBA student at Cleveland State University and previous Future Medtech Entrepreneur student. This topic was his final pitch for the program.
- Elliot Reed, J.D.
About the program
I-Corps@Ohio is a statewide program developed to assist faculty, staff and students from Ohio research centers in validating the market potential of technologies and launching startup companies. I-Corps@Ohio is modeled after the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) successful I-Corps (Innovation Corps) program, which has been proven to increase innovation, entrepreneurship, and industry collaboration. The I-Corps@Ohio program incorporates Lean Launchpad, customer discovery and business model innovation methodologies to assess technologies, enhance the business acumen of research faculty and students, and expand their entrepreneurial network relationships. Cohort tracks are offered in Science & Engineering and Medtech, with each track designed to offer both common and subject matter-specific content. The long-term objective of I-Corps@Ohio is to systematically build a steady and predictable pipeline of high-quality, high-growth startups from technology developed at the state’s colleges, universities and research institutions, contributing to economic development in Ohio.
I-Corps@Ohio is offered on a competitive basis to teams composed of research faculty or staff members, students and executive mentors that have protected institutional Intellectual Property (IP) and a commitment to the commercial advancement of that IP, especially as a technology-based startup in Ohio. Teams develop market-driven value propositions and scalable business models designed to attract the business assistance, talent and capital needed to support a high-growth enterprise.
For more information on I-Corps and additional programs at NEOMED related to product commercialization and tech transfer, contact Elliot Reed, manager of the REDIzone, at firstname.lastname@example.org.