Entrepreneurship and innovation at UNTHSC
UNT Health Science Center has embarked on an ambitious campaign to invest in entrepreneurship and to develop an innovative mindset for its students, faculty and staff.
This initiative is essential if UNTHSC is to achieve its vision of defining and producing the health care providers of the future, said President Michael R. Williams, DO, MD, MBA.
“Entrepreneurship is an increasingly necessary skillset for physicians in a changing health care environment and for scientists in a changing funding environment,” Dr. Williams said. “As a former hospital CEO, I know there is tremendous value in physicians thinking like entrepreneurs. And with federal funding becoming increasingly difficult to obtain, our researchers have an opportunity to pivot to conducting translational research with a more entrepreneurial mindset.”
At the same time, innovation is a key element of scientific discovery, and the Health Science Center has made important steps in fostering the thinking, planning and execution necessary to drive innovation.
Moving discoveries from bench to bedside
Last year, it opened the new Interdisciplinary Research and Education Building, specifically designed to encourage collaboration and facilitate innovation. It has invested in seeding and funding innovative research projects, creating a new Institute of Translational Research to guide and coordinate research that positively impacts outcomes and speeds research findings from lab bench to bedside.
The Health Science Center also has teamed up with Fort Worth venture capital firm Bios Partners to create an Entrepreneur-in-Residence program to assist the University with technology commercialization and entrepreneurship.
Bios Partners makes its entrepreneurial expertise available on a monthly basis to all UNTHSC students, staff and faculty members, as well as to incubation client companies with lab space at the Health Science Center.
“I’m excited about the relationship because I know we can help UNTHSC with its commercialization efforts,” said Les Kreis, Managing Partner and Co-Founder of Bios Partners. “With our understanding of biotech and capital markets, we can assist UNTHSC in developing strategies to help create the best opportunities.”
The agreement includes a speaker series open to the public that features entrepreneurs and commercialization experts sharing their successes and experiences and offering advice.
In addition, Bios and HSC are collaborating on developing a special topics course on entrepreneurship that will be available through the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.
“The program will create a unique opportunity for UNTHSC personnel to engage directly with a venture capitalist,” said Robert McClain, PhD, Associate Vice President of Research and Innovation. “These conversations have the potential to inspire students in entrepreneurship and infuse a market perspective into research projects.”
Connecting innovators in our community
Dr. McClain and Cameron Cushman, Director of Innovation Ecosystems, are leading conversations with key members of the community representing the Tarrant County College System, Neeley School of Business at TCU, City of Fort Worth, Texas Wesleyan and some of our local startups to determine ways to develop an innovative and entrepreneurial mindset.
To illustrate the Health Science Center’s commitment, Dr. Williams pointed to other recent moves:
- HSC and Cerenis Therapeutics have begun a collaborative partnership to develop new pharmaceutical technologies based on the nanoparticle research of Andras Lacko, PhD.
- HSC has launched new startups to fight ophthalmic diseases and cancer.
- It has established a Research Development Office that focuses on seeding research projects with higher potential to generate commercialized technology and partnerships with local companies.
- It is involved in two research projects to determine the impact of job creation by entrepreneurship in Fort Worth and to assess the network of Fort Worth investors who support startup efforts. Both projects are the first of their kind for Fort Worth.
Dr. Williams said the Health Science Center will continue to take a leadership role in developing entrepreneurship in Fort Worth.
“Entrepreneurship is important to our city,” he said. “It creates new wealth. It brings new products and services to market that make our lives better. And it brings new jobs – almost all new job creation occurs in firms that are less than five years old.”
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