The Commercialization FastTrac

Emory’s Office of Tech Transfer and the University of Georgia’s Small Business Development Centerare currently hosting the third Kauffman Foundation FastTrac TechVenture Course at Emory University. This year the Atlanta Clinical & Translational Science Institute (ACTSI) is co-sponsoring the course. The FastTrac curriculum closely aligns with the ACTSI mission of translating scientific discoveries to impact patients and the Clinical and Translational Science Award’s mission of Accelerating Discoveries Toward Better Health.

The six-week course helps guide faculty inventions or discoveries from the lab bench to a commercial partner. This means teaching scientists to successfully pitch investors and secure non-grant based funding. Course enrollment is up nearly 60% with students from medical device, biotech, pharma, nonprofit and software companies and researchers and engineers from Emory University and Clark Atlanta University. This course offers research investigators comfortable in labs some direction in navigating corporate finance and venture capital.

Excerpt from Emory Medicine, Fall 2012, The Art of the Sell

"Several Emory faculty members have had success starting their own companies, and one of the goals of the program is to help make that group larger," says Todd Sherer, director of the Office of Technology Transfer. "Another is to let    aspiring entrepreneurs know more about how start-ups work. We want them to be prepared for the process of working with business leaders and investors."

Many doctors and scientists have great ideas, Sherer says, but they still need investors, patent protection and eventually the ability to pay employees. A scientist who is comfortable running a laboratory or preparing a grant application   may still find the world of commercialization daunting. And finding funding in today's depressed economy can be especially trying. 

Read more about the current funding environment

The ACTSI is here to help educate new clinical investigators, provide pilot funding, offer consultative services in areas critical to successful clinical research such as bioinformatics, biostatistics, ethics and regulatory affairs, community dissemination and access to research technologies, clinical research sites and nurses across the city. From there, university Tech Transfer Offices can assist investigators in licensing the technology to an outside business but investigators can take a more active role in the process after completing the FastTrac Course.

ACTSI Investigators on the FastTrac

With modules titled Exploring Entrepreneurship, Defining the Target Market, Conducting Market Research, Testing Your Business Concept, Entering & Capturing the Market, Planning for Financial Success, Building Your Team, Protecting Your IP, Identifying Funding & Working with Investors and Managing Cash & Operating Your Business, five ACTSI investigators are currently taking the Kauffman FastTrac Course and some have completed the course.

Srini Tridandapani, MD, PhD, assistant professor of Radiology and Imaging Sciences at Emory University, developed an innovative device that can significantly improve safety and quality in radiology. He received seed funding from the Emory/Georgia Tech Health Innovation Program and the ACTSI that helped obtain preliminary results and prototyping. “I believe that the prototype is ready for commercialization, and the Kauffman FastTrac seems to be ideally suited at this point for me to learn how to do this,” said Tridandapani. 

Baowei Fei, PhD, EngD, associate professor of Radiology and Imaging Sciences and Mathematics and Computer Sciences at Emory University, developed several medical imaging techniques with ACTSI support that have the potential to improve prostate cancer detection and is currently evaluating the technology in patients. “I hope to translate this technology into a commercial product so it could become widely available for a large patient population. Through the Kauffman FastTrac Course, I hope to gain knowledge and experience on commercialization, marketing and management, which will help me navigate the clinical and translational pipeline and prepare for translating my lab research discovery and technology to a potential commercial product to improve patient care and medical outcomes,” said Fei.   

“By learning more about how to do business and how to bring a product to market, I hope to gain the knowledge necessary to develop a service that will allow my research to be used widely. The Kauffman FastTrac Course is a direct outgrowth of my ACTSI-supported project,” said Beau Bruce, MD, MS, assistant professor of Ophthalmology and Neurology at Emory University and ACTSI investigator and scholar. Bruce’s FOTO-ED study is an interdisciplinary project (neuro-ophthalmology and emergency medicine) to improve ophthalmologic care in the emergency department by supplanting direct ophthalmoscopy by non-mydriatic fundus photography. The hope is that collaboration will begin to restore the importance of the ocular fundus examination in patient care through a combination of education and technology that will result in improved diagnosis of the disease.

Young-sup Yoon, MD, PhD, FAHA, director of Stem Cell Biology, professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Emory University School of Medicine, received three ACTSI pilot grants, including one co-sponsored by the Emory/Georgia Tech Regenerative Engineering and Medicine Research Center, which helped initiate several new patents and led to a start-up company named AlphaStem. “With the help of this course, I am pursuing funds to move this company forward. The networks established by the ACTSI grants and the Kauffman course were pivotal to develop ideas and to translate the ideas into products,” said Yoon.

ACTSI has provided support to nearly 850 Emory University, Morehouse School of Medicine and Georgia Tech research investigators and over 75 clinical research scholars and trainees. The ACTSI is one of 61 medical research institutions working as a national consortium to improve the way biomedical research is conducted across the country. The consortium, funded through the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA), shares a common vision to reduce the time it takes for laboratory discoveries to become treatments for patients, and to engage communities in clinical research efforts. It is also fulfilling the critical need to train the next generation of clinical researchers. The CTSA initiative is led by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences at the National Institutes of Health.