Innovator Article

Medical Technology Track
Big Bang! Business Plan Competition Partners with NSF-Funded Program

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by Tim Akin

The MBA student-run Big Bang! Business Plan Competition got a booster shot this year with a new track offering $45,000 to the most innovative medical technologies being developed in the Sacramento region, a burgeoning sector driven by pioneering research being done at the UC Davis Health System.

The top three medical technology entrants in the 2012 Big Bang! will each receive a $15,000 grant to advance commercialization efforts. The money must be used in the lab of a UC Davis or California State University, Sacramento faculty. The Med Tech track entrants will be eligible to win the Big Bang!’s overall 1st place, 2nd place and People’s Choice awards.

The new awards come from a Partnerships for Innovation grant from the National Science Foundation that established the UC Davis Medical Technology Commercialization Clinic. It provides an engine for transforming knowledge at the intersection of engineering, life sciences and medicine into innovations that contribute to the Sacramento region’s economic development, while also educating science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) students and clinicians in technology transfer and entrepreneurship.

GSM alumna Gabriela Lee ’04, the chief knowledge transfer officer at the Center for Biophotonics Science and Technology at UC Davis, which oversees the Medical Technology Commercialization Clinic, said linking with the Big Bang! and its workshops and network will spark new collaborations to help bring promising breakthroughs to life.

“Physicians, other healthcare professionals, STEM faculty, students, researchers, entrepreneurs and MBA and law students now have the opportunity to team up and develop commercialization plans for technologies that address unmet medical needs. In the process, they sharpen their knowledge of, and skills in, entrepreneurship,” Lee said.

The hope is that the Med Tech track will spur more success stories like that of Dr. Paul Henderson, an assistant adjunct professor of hematology and oncology at UC Davis Cancer Center. He is CEO of Accelerated Medical Diagnostics, which won the $10,000 first prize in the 2011 Big Bang! The start-up also won $15,000 in funding last year from the Medical Technology Commercialization Clinic’s separate commercialization plan competition, now rolled into this year’s Big Bang!

The innovation, based on accelerator mass spectrometry, can trace a small dose of an anti-cancer drug in a patient prior to treatment, enabling doctors to determine if the treatment will work before administering a full dose. “This personalizes chemotherapy,” Henderson said. “Our goal is to get the right therapy for the right tumor.”

The approach could save billions of dollars in medical costs for ineffective treatments, and spare patients unnecessary side effects. The procedure is now in early clinical testing in eight bladder and lung cancer patients, thanks to $200,000 from a federal Small Business Innovation Research grant.

Henderson said the introductions to students, investors and mentors through the Big Bang! and the Center for Entrepreneurship’s Angels on Campus program were game changing.

“My co-founder and I didn’t know anything about the business side going into it,” he said. “The expertise and connections from the Graduate School of Management have been critical. We have an extremely sophisticated and high-level business plan that will help us get further funding and investor interest.”

Henderson still needs venture capital or National Institute of Health funding to increase the clinical testing to 20 to 30 patients, enough data to seek FDA diagnostics approval. Then he’d need 300 patients to do a pivotal evidence of safety and effectiveness study. With full regulatory approval, he’s hopeful the technology could be on the market in three to four years.

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