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23 Universities Launch Virtual Hub to Accelerate Healthcare Innovations

By Mandy Roth  
   October 15, 2018

West Virginia University-led consortium hopes to commercialize research initiatives in areas that are not traditional tech hotbeds.

In the ongoing quest to ramp up healthcare innovation, a consortium of nearly two dozen academic institutions, led by West Virginia University's (WVU) Health Sciences Innovation Center, have joined forces to launch a virtual hub, which will accelerate commercialization of research conducted at universities in the Southeast and Puerto Rico.

The accelerator hub will be funded by a three-year, $3.5 million grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, a division of the National Institutes of Health, as part of the Institution Development Award program.

Rich Giersch, principal investigator and director of WVU's Health Sciences Innovation Center, located in Morgantown, West Virginia, points out that this grant will help bring ideas to market from universities located in areas of the country that are not traditional technology hotbeds. Because of that, entrepreneurs have limited access to resources, training, and exposure to funding sources.

The hub aims to rectify that dynamic and bring more visibility to healthcare solutions coming from institutions that might be otherwise overlooked.

"There is a dramatic lack of attention to the research that's being done in the heartland of America," says the director. According to Giersch:

  • About 25% of every dollar spent in the nation by NIH on research and development of health-related technologies from academic or other institutions occurs in Boston or San Francisco.
  • About 75% of the money devoted to start-up companies that arise out of this research is spent in those same cities.
  • Yet, says Giersch, another recent study found that "when looking at how far research dollar go, [areas outside of] Boston and San Francisco are more highly productive per dollar spent."

So far in 2018, of more than $27 billion awarded by NIH, the top location was California, with more than $4.1 billion, followed by Massachusetts, with more than $2.85 billion.

In addition to WVU, University of Kentucky and University of Louisville co-lead the effort in collaboration with XLerateHealth, a Louisville, Kentucky, business that helps early stage healthcare companies build out their commercialization strategy.

The hub will help accelerate development of biomedical technologies and products, as they move from the laboratory into the marketplace. Organizers hope the initiative will result in innovations related to pharmaceuticals, medical devices, healthcare IT, and electronics.

Giersch says that faculty who practice at hospitals affiliated with the universities, such as West Virginia University Health System, will be eligible to participate in the program.

Other institutions participating in the initiative include:

  • Ana G. Mendez University System
  • Benedict College
  • Clemson University
  • Coastal Carolina University
  • Eastern Kentucky University
  • Jackson State University
  • LSU Health Services
  • Marshall University
  • Medical University of South Carolina
  • Morehead State University
  • Northern Kentucky University
  • Ponce Health Sciences University/Ponce School of Medicine
  • Puerto Rico Science Technology & Research Trust
  • Southern University and A&M College
  • Tulane University
  • University of Arkansas
  • University of Mississippi
  • University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences Campus
  • Western Kentucky University
  • Winthrop University

Mandy Roth is the innovations editor at HealthLeaders.

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