U of M Selected as Hub for NIH Program to Accelerate New Inventions to the Market

Mar. 23, 2015

The University of Minnesota announced today it has been selected by the National Institutes of Health as one of three Research Evaluation and Commercialization Hub (REACH) sites nationally to establish a university-wide strategic framework promoting commercialization and technology transfer in the life sciences and biomedical technology.

Supported by a $3 million NIH grant with another $3 million in matching U of M funds, the university’s MIN-REACH program will provide commercial expertise and resources needed for the development and commercialization of diagnostics, therapeutics, preventive medicine and medical devices. The program will establish new industry partnerships, strengthen existing partnerships, and provide entrepreneurial, commercial-style education for innovators to accelerate the pace at which innovations reach the marketplace. It will fund between 10-20 research projects a year.

“MIN-REACH will play a crucial role in providing the coaching, training and expertise needed to focus our research efforts on commercial markets and accelerate the tech transfer process,” said Brian Herman, vice president for research at the University of Minnesota. “I am excited by this opportunity to expand our commercialization efforts and maximize the health, economic and social benefits of university research and outreach to society. New pharmaceuticals and medical devices will lead to longer lives, lower costs in medical care and important strides in the battles against the most formidable diseases.”

Under the program, workshops and industry mentors will coach faculty in key aspects of commercialization, including subjects like competition, venture capital and market assessment. Meanwhile, the program will identify and address barriers in the academic environment that may hinder commercialization.

MIN-REACH builds upon several existing, nationally-recognized programs at the U designed to advance sponsored research and technology commercialization, including Minnesota Innovation Partnerships (MN-IP), Discovery Capital and MIN-Corps, an NSF-funded program that promotes student entrepreneurship in science and engineering.

MIN-REACH will also build upon Minnesota’s long history of success in medical innovation, as the state is home to the top 17 publicly traded medical device companies in the U.S. At the U of M, medical innovations are among the most prominent inventions of the U’s commercialization portfolio.

“As a recognized leader in the field of tech transfer, the University of Minnesota understands the value of finding innovative ways to accelerate technology’s path to the market,” said Jay Schrankler, executive director of the U’s Office for Technology Commercialization. “MIN-REACH is the latest in a series of programs that demystify the process of putting research to work in the real world, whether as a technology licensed to an existing company or as the basis for a new startup.”

The team for this project will include:

  • Charles Muscoplat, PhD, adjunct professor of medicine and professor of food science and nutrition with the U’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resources Science, will lead MIN-REACH as Principle Investigator.
  • Vadim Gurvich, PhD, associate director with the Institute for Therapeutics Discovery and Development in the U’s College of Pharmacy, will co-lead the pharmaceutical side of the program.
  • Allison Hubel, PhD, professor of mechanical engineering and director of the U’s Biopreservation Core Resource (BioCoR), and Bin He, PhD, professor of biomedical engineering and director of the Institute for Engineering in Medicine, both from the College of Science and Engineering, will direct the medical devices side of MIN-REACH.
  • Kevin Peterson, MD, from the Department of Family and Community Health and director of the Center for Excellence in Primary Care, will provide medical advice and oversight.

The motto of MIN-REACH is “Coaching to Success” which is based upon a pilot program started at the University in 2011.

“We are pleased the NIH chose to recognize our pioneering of extensively using industry coaches to provide for a successful commercial environment,” said Muscoplat.