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VU School of Medicine ramps-up The Radx incubator
with 17 entrants in Innovation Challenge
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The RADx Innovation Challenge for healthcare technology advancement may be the newest initiative in Tennessee for commercialization, entrepreneurship and business incubation.

It is sponsored by the Department of Radiology and Radiological Sciences (DRRS), within the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine (VUSM).

On May 25, the program drew 17 teams to pitch their ideas in competition for a handful of $10K grants and other support aimed at helping them cover expenses for advancing their ideas to proof-of-concept or beyond.

Rick Abramson MD

DRRS Vice Chair for Innovation Rick Abramson M.D. told Venture Nashville he'd originally expected no more than a half-dozen teams to step forward for "the fledgling healthcare incubator... Goes to show how much entrepreneurial energy is here to tap into," he added.

Indeed, at the mid-March deadline for team rosters, 96 unique individuals from on- and off-campus had populated an initial 27 teams.

Overall, the teams were invited to address an unmet or undermet need in healthcare. Eight of the 17 teams chose to focus on preordained specific targets for technology, product or processes that were identified by RADx management, while nine "open track" teams opted to range farther.

Among the results of last month's event, four teams won support for their continued work, and some teams that did not receive awards during the pitch are believed likely to continue pursuing their ideas, said Abramson.

The entire 17-team cohort, with support-winners marked, is described in the accompany article here.

The event was cosponsored by DRRS with the VU Center for Technology Transfer and Commercialization (CTTC), and The Wond'ry Innovation Center and The Evelyn Selby Stead Fund for Innovation.

Abramson said the winning teams will be encouraged to maintain a "pretty accelerated pace and we would like to see them spend the development funds [they won] and get to the next milestone within the next three months."

Continuing teams have frequent access to coaching, mentorship and CTTC office hours, as well as to workspaces at The Wond'ry and/or the RADx Studio.

Abramson said the pitch winners will be closely tracked formally and informally, with Abramson and colleagues taking the pulse of each project at regular intervals.

The RADx program's designers, advisors, administrators and others have not yet reached decisions about whether or not there should be, for example, consideration of follow-on funding for SBIR-STTR grant applications or other work among the winning teams; or, how best to "hand-off" maturing innovation concepts and business plans to others, said Abramson.

It is abundantly clear, however, that "having connections, building networks to the Nashville business community is just exceedingly important," said Abramson.

He explained that many on campus hope to glean from this first medical incubator push a better sense of how the percolation of innovation can be improved on campus; whether the RADx structure might be replicated by other sponsors on campus; and, whether accelerators and other initiatives are best positioned at departmental or institutional levels.

Among a range of possibilities, the RADx program could become the "prototype for a larger innovation platform that could be scaled-out across the VU Medical Center," Abramson said.

The Innovation Challenge event was deliberately designed to draw more potential entrepreneurs to the top of the innovation and commercialization funnel, and to move interesting concepts toward testing, development and proof of concept, said Abramson.

The judges for the May 25 RADx Innovation Challenge, list alphabetically:

  • Kelley Dantoulis - Manager-New Ventures, Vanderbilt Center for Technology Transfer and Commercialization (CTTC)
  • Steve Domeck MBA - Process Impact Leader for GENIUSLINKTM and Global Executive for GE FuseTM crowd-powered business model, General Electric Global Operations
  • Landon Gibbs - Managing Partner, Rolling Hills Ventures fund, an affiliate of Clayton Associates
  • H. Benjamin Harvey, M.D., J.D. - Assistant Professor of Radiology, Harvard Medical School; Director of Quality Improvement, Department of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital; and Chief Medical Officer, MedAppTech
  • William Stead, M.D. - Chief Strategy Officer, Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC); McKesson Foundation Professor of Biomedical Informatics. and Professor of Medicine

The RADx advisory and oversight committee, listed alphabetically:

  • Robert Grajewski, M.B.A., M.P.A., Executive Director of the Wond'ry
  • Chris Harris, Ph.D. Director of Licensing, Center for Technology Transfer and Commercialization
  • Reed Omary, M.D., M.S. Carol D. and Henry P. Pendergrass Professor and Chair, Department of Radiology and Radiological Sciences
  • David Owens, M.S., Ph.D. Professor of the Practice of Management and Innovation, Owen Graduate School of Management
  • Bill Stead, M.D., McKesson Foundation Professor of Biomedical Informatics and Chief Strategy Officer, Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Abramson, a 44-year-old native of Chattanooga, holds degrees from Harvard Medical School and Harvard College, and in addition to his career in academic medicine, before completing his postgraduate work he held a variety of roles with McKinsey & Co., Avalere Health and others. Profile here.

The Evelyn Selby Stead Fund for Innovation was established in 2000 in honor of Bill Stead's mother by Stead's father, the late Eugene Anson Stead Jr. M.D., who founded the Duke University Clinical Research Institute and was among pioneers in the physician assistant movement.

Additional gifts have since been made by the Stead family, Bill Stead confirmed for VNC.

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Tags: Benjamin Harvey, Bill Stead, Chris Harris, commercialization, David Owens, healthIT, healthtech, information technology, innovation, Landon Gibbs, radiology, RADX, Reed Omary, Rick Abramson, Robert Grajewski, Steve Domeck, technology transfer, The Evelyn Selby Stead Fund for Innovation, The Wondry, Vanderbilt University, William Stead


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