On May 2nd, teams of Columbia clinicians, engineers, scientists and students pitched their envisioned biomedical technologies for potential Columbia Biomedical Accelerator project funding. A panel of judges and investors awarded over $600,000 to this year’s most promising project teams to catalyze the movement of biomedical innovations into products that can improve patient care.
Columbia’s Biomedical Accelerator is an interdisciplinary, cross-campus, multi-departmental initiative supported by the School of Engineering (SEAS), Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC), and Columbia Technology Ventures (CTV).
“With the complexities of health care systems overall and the hurdles related to reimbursement and regulatory requirements, the path to market for biomedical technologies is especially daunting,” said Andrea Nye, Director of Biomedical Innovation Initiatives in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Director of the Columbia Biomedical Accelerator program. “However, exposing the amazing intellectual talent at Columbia to resources and mentorship specific to biomedical commercialization can go a long way to bringing innovations out of the lab to benefit society.”
The Road Through Lab-to-Market Bootcamp
Over 34 teams applied for this year’s cohort: 20 semi-finalists were selected to participate in a semester-long Lab-to-Market boot camp, and the top 11 finalists presented at Pitch Day for project funding.
“Pitch Day highlights months and oftentimes years of hard work from dedicated interdisciplinary teams working to develop cutting-edge medical technologies,” explained Katie Reuther, Director of Masters Studies in Biomedical Engineering and Co-Director of the Biomedical Accelerator. “We were extremely impressed by every teams’ progress and look forward to what the future holds in their path toward positively impacting patient care.”
Incorporating Design Thinking
In conjunction with Lab-to-Market course, applicant teams benefited greatly from related concepts in Design Thinking from the Columbia Entrepreneurship Design Studio. Alice Bosley ’17SIPA presented an engaging workshop on the importance of interviewing stakeholders to test assumptions.
Teams took this to heart, reaching out to doctors, payers, patients and the end users of their envisioned technologies. For example, the T3Technologies team identified the need for a more high-throughput and cost-effective way to improve identification of effective chemotherapeutic drugs for clinical trials. To test their assumptions about their envisioned 3D tumor-on-a-chip solution, the team, including students Noah Swygert (SEAS 18’) and Katie Dean (GSB 18’), reached out to multiple stakeholders, including researchers at pharmaceutical companies, research laboratories, and the Office of Regulatory Science and Innovation at the FDA. This effort paid off greatly, as the team embraced Design Thinking methodology, refined how they approached their solution, and validated what stakeholders would need to see in order to adopt their novel and cutting-edge approach.
Moving Forward to Address Unmet Clinical Needs
Ultimately, this year’s Biomedical Accelerator funding was awarded to projects working to address a wide range of unmet clinical needs, from, among others, the above tumor-on-a-chip project, innovative wound care aimed at decreasing pain and improving quality of life for those with fragile skin disorders, drugs to prevent the development of stress-induced psychiatric disorders, and a test to evaluate patient-specific drug response to guide chemotherapeutic treatment. Project support is expected to serve as a bridge to commercial investment, with awards granted to perform specific tasks needed to validate a commercial hypothesis (vs. a scientific hypothesis). We look forward to watching these projects evolve and take the next steps toward becoming products on the market improving health outcomes.