Grant funds will help build capacity to move scientific discoveries and technologies from the lab and into commercial products to improve patient care and enhance human health. Awards were made by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), for Regional Technology Transfer Accelerator Hubs for Institutional Development Award (IDeA) states. Puerto Rico joined in the Southeast IDeA proposal with the Puerto Rico Science, Technology & Research Trust as State Lead, and Site Lead institutions including Ana G. Méndez University System, Ponce Medical School Foundation, and University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences Campus.
XLerateHealth, LLC, a Louisville-based healthcare technology accelerator that focuses on startups and commercialization and the primary awardee on the grant, joined forces with a consortium of academic institutions to create a team that received approximately $500,000 for the first year of a potential three-year $3.5 million grant from NIH NIGMS. The goal is to enhance the capacity to move scientific results from academic institutions into commercialization and to promote a sustainable culture of biomedical entrepreneurship within IDeA states. The Southeast IDeA region includes Kentucky, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, West Virginia, South Carolina, and Puerto Rico.
In the 2016 Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) Annual Survey, academic institutions in the Southeast IDeA region received more than $1.5 billion in federally funded research and generated 38 startup companies. Participating universities in this grant made up 66 percent of that research and 82 percent of the region’s newly licensed startup companies. Given the uneven access to commercialization support services, startup resources and other best practices across the Southeast IDeA region, an accelerator hub connecting those resources and providing access to best practices can make a significant impact.
The Southeast XLerator Network will fund creation of an online “virtual hub,” through which the partners can connect and coordinate programming, resources and commercialization tools for utilization across the network of participating institutions. The Network will develop and share educational curriculum at participating institution Sites across the region. There will also be a focused intellectual property and technology transfer support services component where those services are not currently available.
Lucy Crespo, CEO of the Puerto Rico Science, Technology & Research Trust said: “Through this public/private initiative, Puerto Rico is becoming part of the region’s commercialization leadership. Our island is rich in biomedical technology expertise, as evidenced by the research capabilities of our universities. We are excited about this opportunity to harness the expertise and commercialization capabilities of XLerateHealth and optimize it for this networked partnership. This Network should have incredible potential to accelerate biomedical technologies in Puerto Rico.”
As the Lead organization for Puerto Rico, the Science Trust will provide guidance, support, and coordination for its Network partners and interface with other State Lead organizations. Dr. David Gulley (Director, Technology Transfer Office) will serve as Principal Investigator and Dr. Carlos Baez (Technology Manager, Technology Transfer Office) will serve as Hub Coordinator.
After participating in a State Leads Summit in Kentucky to kick off the effort, Dr. Gulley said: “This first planning meeting format provided an excellent in-depth understanding of the Southeast XLerator Network partners, their leadership, assets, needs and the gaps in their ecosystems. It also allowed each of us to determine our similarities and our differences with the other Southeast IDeA states.”