Professor hired as innovation chief for University of Michigan Health System

By Hillary Crawford, Daily Staff Reporter
Published October 27, 2013

Following the campus-wide trend of focusing on entrepreneurship, the Medical School named Emergency Medicine Prof. Kevin Ward executive director for medical innovation on Wednesday, who will work with the school’s faculty to spur entrepreneurial activity.

In the past fiscal year, Medical School researchers successfully pitched 133 inventions and were allotted 41 patents. These figures represent a third of the University’s total invention and patent statistics.

According to a report released Wednesday by the University’s Office of Technology Transfer, $11.1 million of the $14.4 million that the University collects each year from past patents and licensing agreements is directly attributable to innovations from medical research. Licenses were granted to 54 Medical School inventions as part of 40 license agreements with corporate businesses in the past fiscal year.

Licensing and patents do not always translate into successful products, but the Medical School has established a new initiative to aid in the translation from research lab to marketplace.

Headed by Ward, the Fast Forward Medical Innovation Initiative aims to combine research and entrepreneurship efforts in order to foster commercialization.

Among the initiative’s programs is the implementation of Innovation Strike Forces, groups of employees that will identify and accelerate promising ideas, then connect the dots between researchers, clinicians and businesses.

“The new innovation program is to help faculty think in different ways about their ideas and to provide them with an innovation road map so that we can get their ideas to impact through product development much earlier,” Ward said.

Ward said that although ideas are protected through invention disclosures and patents, many of them do not necessarily become products. To ease the transition from biomedical research to clinical application, Ward plans to work closely with the Office of Tech Transfer, the College of Engineering Center for Entrepreneurship, the Business Engagement Center and other campus offices.

“We’ve got a top-ranked Medical School, College of Engineering and Business School, so one of the strategies will be to blur the lines between them.”