Course builds community of biomedical entrepreneurs
hen new multidisciplinary course is preparing entrepreneurial graduate students to bring biomedical innovations to the patients who need them. The UW-Madison Bio Innovations and Opportunities in Medicine and Engineering (BIOME) course brings together students from academic backgrounds as diverse as engineering, medicine, education and business. “This breadth is essential for providing the creativity needed to find innovative solutions for complicated problems,” says master’s student Ben Schoepke.
Like the ecological term “biome” that describes distinctive, yet interdependent plant and animal inhabitants of a given geographical area, the course acronym BIOME evokes the interaction among UW-Madison faculty, staff and students, the biomedical industry, and the community of patients and healthcare providers.
Working in multidisciplinary teams, BIOME participants research and identify clinical needs that can have technological solutions. Ultimately, they unite UW-Madison experts who can address those needs and develop commercially viable products. “This gives graduate students an opportunity to learn about entrepreneurship and translational research,” says Professor Robert Radwin.
BIOME appeals to grad students from across UW-Madison—and in particular, those interested in the medical device and biomedical industries.
Such is the case for third-year medical physics master’s student Matt Christensen. “My career goal is to start one, if not more, medical imaging device companies. I would also like to stay close to academia in an adjunct role,” he says. “The BIOME course fits nicely into those goals by providing a framework to develop and create ideas, and giving guidance on how to foster industry-academia partnerships.”
Course lectures include such topics as medical economics, FDA regulations, intellectual property, the market research process, production issues, and proposal writing.
Early in the course, each BIOME team identifies approximately 40 clinical needs. The teams narrow their choices to four ideas, for which they develop a complete design specification. The students then present their ideas to a panel of faculty or professionals in medicine, business, engineering, pharmacy and entrepreneurship.
With input from those experts, the teams select their most promising idea based on such factors as marketability, clinical impact, technical feasibility, intellectual property, regulatory barriers and others. For the next seven weeks, each team identifies the best path for advancing its idea and crafts a full business or development plan for doing so. Part of the process includes seeking out faculty and clinicians who have the technological and clinical background and interest to devise a solution.
One component of BIOME is that each team prepares a full intellectual-property disclosure for review via the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), the university patenting and licensing organization.
BIOME research proposals could receive follow-on funding or support under the UW-Madison Coulter Translational Research Partnership in Biomedical Engineering, the Industrial and Economic Development Research grant program, the Draper Technology Innovation Fund grant program, among others. Project end points include intellectual property, commercial products and startup companies.
The course is based around the concept of an “innovation community” that involves not only UW-Madison faculty, staff and students, but also opens opportunities for broader participation from business, industry and the larger healthcare community, says college Assistant Dean for Research and Technology Transfer Larry Casper. “Ultimately, patients are impacted by new technologies that improve the outcomes of medical care,” he says.