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Teaching Translation of Biomedical Innovation: Educating students and faculty on what it takes to bring biomedical products to market
How does an idea become an actual product on the healthcare marketplace? What needs to take place for a groundbreaking biomedical innovation to get out of the lab to benefit human health?
For three years, the Columbia-Coulter Translational Research Partnership has provided up to $1 million per year to bring innovative biomedical technologies to market to benefit human health and society through a unique collaboration between the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation and Columbia University’s Departments of Biomedical Engineering (BME), Surgery, Orthopaedic Surgery, Radiology, and Columbia Technology Ventures.
However, the Coulter program is about more than just funding. A major goal is to educate new innovators about the process of research translation and commercialization. A critical step in this process – some might say the most important – is validating an idea in the marketplace in order to figure out if anyone cares enough to pay for it. To this end, the Columbia-Coulter program, with the support of several Biomedical Engineering design instructors, have partnered to implement “Translating Biomedical Innovation,” a new course designed to provide specialized business frameworks and essential tools for successful translation of biomedical technologies from lab to market.
The goal is to support teams as they validate the unmet clinical need and business opportunity of their envisioned product and hone their pitch presentation in order to better position technologies for partnership and follow-on investment. In addition, the course is unique in that it introduces the concept of a “killer experiment,” that is, an experiment intentionally aimed at pressure testing critical requirements of an envisioned product in as little time and utilizing as few resources as possible. In this way, teams are pushed to prove that their product is viable and that there is an opportunity before significant resources are invested into developing and perfecting the technology. This process substantially de-risks the endeavor and leaves no doubt that the product will be an improvement over the status quo.
Last year, an innovation and commercialization “Coulter Boot Camp” was pilot-tested. A select group of Columbia-Coulter applicants was invited to participate to more fully develop their ideas and pitch to industry, investment and healthcare experts interested in funding their projects. The workshop was a huge success, and this year the course can be taken for academic credit, and has been extended to all SEAS faculty and students interested in learning more about biomedical innovation and what it takes to bring an idea to market.