“I’ve sat in a room with a venture capitalist who told an inventor ‘it IS your baby but your baby is ugly’”. That quip from Bruce Gingles, vice president of Cook Medical, brought a big laugh from the 30 University of Louisville researchers attending a session of UofL’s Trifecta Life-Science Translational Training Program. Co-organizer Holly Clark says the series of five sessions is “designed to educate our innovators on the many paths to commercializing their inventions and life science technologies.”
Gingles and other speakers have brought UofL researchers a wealth of knowledge on “making good pitches to investors, partners and stakeholders, regulatory reimbursements, protecting intellectual property, marketing and dealing with potential roadblocks” to getting a life science product to market according to Jessica Sharon, program co-organizer.
Gingles, whose company is the largest privately owned medical products manufacturer in the world, told the entrepreneurs the human impact of their invention “will have the most impact on your success, not how much money it might make.” He offered advice on forming a start-up company versus licensing a technology while adding insight into how Cook Medical decides which inventions to pursue.
A second speaker, Dr. Cedric Francois of Apellis Pharmaceuticals, told the group that creating and running a start up company has its challenges but great potential for reward. Francois is overseeing his second entrepreneurial venture after the first was acquired by a major industry player. His current company recently raised $47.1 Million. Francois agreed with Gingles that team development is paramount to the success of commercialization and that either the licensing or startup path can lead to the same outcome—getting products to market!
UofL is placing an emphasis on getting more faculty to translate and commercialize the inventions they discover at UofL so providing information and identifying resources to make the process easier is a big help to researchers according to Clark.
Radiologist Chin Ng has attended all of the sessions, which he describes as “the training we never got in school”. Ng is developing a novel laser to treat cancer. “I’m a researcher so I know how to write research grant proposals and publish papers” he said. “But these information sessions have taught me I need to stay focused on other things if I hope to get my invention to the marketplace”.
Jill Steinbach-Rankins is a bioengineer who knew that making a pitch to entrepreneurs or investors is outside the norm for an engineer but she’s excited about the opportunity to learn.
The series of seminars includes the name “trifecta” because UofL is the only institution in the country to have received three prestigious translational grants – Coulter Translational Partnership, the NSF I-Corps program and the NIH REACH/UofL ExCITE Award.