Thursday, June 8, 2017

Medical Device sponsored by MIN-Corps presents at International Conference

Gabriel Vidal (CSE 16) presented the results of his teams senior biomedical engineering design project at the Global Conference on Myositis (GCOM) from May 5-8, 2017. The annual conference focuses on updating cutting-edge research in all areas of myositis, a type of muscle weakness. Gabriel and his teams research focused on the early detection of soft tissue calcinosis, a debilitating type of soft-tissue calcification that 40% of patients with juvenile dermatomyositis experience. It is crucial to identify the onset of calcinosis early as it becomes increasingly hard to resolve as it progresses in size, density and numbers throughout the soft tissues.

The year-long biomedical engineering project by Gabe and his teammates, which they completed with support from MIN-Corps, attempted to design a practical solution to this problem. At the end of the year, Gabe and his team presented a prototype of the device which was designed to detect the onset of calcification by measuring the electrical impedance of tissue. The device operates by placing clinical grade electrodes on the skin, and then, by applying a small current into the skin and measuring the resulting voltage value to analyze the impedance of the skin. Tests with synthetic tissue indicated that the device could distinguish between physiologically relevant concentration changes of calcium phosphate based on the way the impedance changes with the frequency of the applied current.

Gabe, presenting his poster at the conference.
Gabriel describes the conference in his own words:
The conference began with a Juvenile Myositis Pre-Conference Workshop sponsored by the Cure JM Foundation, where important new developments in the areas of research concerning juvenile myositis were shared. The room was set up like a lecture hall, with desks stretching one hundred feet in every direction, and two large screens surrounding a podium where leading experts presented their visions for the future of myositis research. This continued during the main session and these experts taught and informed one another, cultivating new ideas and creating new connections. By the time of my presentation on Saturday morning I had learned much about a disease which I had little deep understanding of before, and became versed in the landscape of the current research. With this new found knowledge base, I presented my device and connected to the myositis community, offering comfort to families affected by the disease and forming new relationships for researchers who would benefit from our device.

Possibly having been the only engineer presenting at this conference, senior members of the community expressed to me their excitement for this mixing of scientific professions that I was able to represent. Afterward, during the breakout session I attended, scientists gathering on an international scale in collaboration to discuss important goals, a discussion in which I was able to voice my unique perspective as a biomedical engineer.
The team responsible for this project were Gabriel Vidal, Alexander Nelson, Nathaniel Carlson, Jacob Heffernan, Clara Lee, with industry primary investigator Mauris N DeSilva, PhD and clinical primary investigator Olcay Y Jones, MD PhD. As Dr. DeSilva describes, it is essential to bring innovative technologies for improving disease outcomes.  JDM is a rare disease and like many other orphan diseases, the funding and resources on these patients are challenging.  The current work presented by Gabe is significant as it exemplifies that cross-disciplinary communications are essential to nurture new, fresh ideas for patient centered care. We are thankful and very proud of the accomplishments by the students and appreciate the generous support from MIN-Corps.

The team is looking forward to continue the work to take their technology to the next level and all the way to clinical application. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

SBIR Road Tour comes to UMinnesota July 17

The federally-funded Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program provides funding for research and development of commercialization-capable technology through contracts or grants. Within this overall program, the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program focuses on expanding public/private partnerships between small businesses and nonprofit research institutions (like the University of Minnesota). These programs' goal, to bridge the gap between basic science and commercialization of the resulting innovations, runs parallel to the efforts of MIN-Corps.

On July 17 from 7:30am-5:00pm, MN-SBIR, the Minnesota Department of Employment, and the UMN Office of Technology Commercialization will host a day-long event at the McNamara Alumni Center to discuss these and other grants. The event aims to share how to access funds from SBIR and STTR, and other local and state resources available to innovators, researchers, and technology entrepreneurs. If you're an innovator, entrepreneur, researcher, or small technology firm, take advantage of this opportunity to hear directly from federal agency program managers, and meet one-on-one with program decision makers.

($75 through June 30, $100 July 1-16, $125 at the door)

  1. 7:30 am - 8:00 am - Registration
  2. 8 am - 12 pm - Federal program and one-on-one appointments
  3. 12 pm - 1 pm Lunch (Federal group departs for next city)
  4. 1:00 pm - 4 pm - Breakout sessions
  5. 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm Reception
Panel Discussion Topics
  • Seed funding your Idea through SBIR
  • Inside the Head of an Evaluator: Lessons Learned and Common Mistakes
  • Technology Alignment, Opportunities, and Funding from the Warfighter (Defense focused)
SBIR / STTR Program Managers available for one-on-one conversations:
  • Department of Agriculture (USDA)
  • Department of Energy (DOE)
  • Department of Health and Human Services - National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • National Science Foundation (NSF)
  • Department of Defense - Air Force (USAF)
  • Department of Defense - Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
  • Department of Defense - Missile Defense Agency (MDA)
  • Department of Defense - Navy (USN)
  • Department of Defense - Special Operations Command (SOCOM)
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
  • United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)
Location: McNamara Alumni Center - 200 Oak St. Minneapolis, MN 55455
($75 through June 30, $100 before the event, $125 at the door)

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Summer Workshops and Bootcamps at MIN-Corps

Innovation Commercialization Bootcamp

Each bootcamp offers a one-day overview of commercialization principles and processes, including
  • Identifying and Defining a Commercializable Solution
  • Academic Roles in Commercialization
  • Product-Market Fit: Customer Segments and Value Proposition Design
  • Market Assessment
  • Getting Started: Commercialization Milestones
  • Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer - Working With the OTC
The summer session of the Commercialization Bootcamp will be held June 15, 2017 from 10am-4pm, in Bruininks Hall room 530B. Register for the bootcamp here!

Value Proposition Design Workshops

Four hands-on sessions cover the breadth of value proposition design in a cumulative noncredit course. Sign up to learn how product-market fit, customer discovery, pathway to commercialization, and market assessment apply to your innovation.
  • Determine initial product/service application to a specific market, as well as longer-term market potential
  • Develop competence in customer discovery methods
  • Identify steps toward commercialization - scientific, market, and business
  • $3,000 NSF-funded mini-grants available for customer discovery and prototyping
The four sessions of the summer course will take place June 21, July 5, July 19, and August 2 from 1-4pm in Lind Hall 303. Register here!

STARTUP: Customer Development & Testing

Students interested in pursuing their own entrepreneurial ventures are encouraged to apply for a new course offering based on lean startup principles and tools. STARTUP: Customer Development & Testing (MGMT 5102) is an intensive 2-credit course in which students test business model assumptions and receive recurring feedback from instructors and mentors. Anyone taking this class must also get outside of the classroom to meet with potential customers and partners. The class meets weekly during September, with periodic presentations by students and updates from instructors and mentors for the remainder of the semester.

Application is open to all undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Minnesota. Participating students are eligible to receive pro bono legal assistance and seed capital grants up to $3,000 to fund prototype development and customer discovery. While individual students may apply, teams are encouraged to have sufficient capability to move a project forward. Apply here.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

MIN-Corps' Impact on Commercialization and Entrepreneurship

MIN-Corps is coming to our third anniversary as a National Innovation Corps site.  It has been gratifying to teach and coach University of Minnesota innovators as they take steps toward commercialization and entrepreneurship.  We're achieving exciting results!

2016-2017 was our first full year delivering the complete suite of programs depicted above. We also piloted integrating Lean LaunchPad content into the UMN undergraduate Biomedical Engineering Senior Design capstone course. 
  • Over 450 University of Minnesota students, staff and faculty participated in one or more programs, including 90 teams and 685 individual registrations
  • 30% of the technologies in Office for Technology Commercialization Venture Center startup pipeline have participated in MIN-Corps programs
We introduced two ecosystem events to increase interaction between University of Minnesota innovators and the business community.  
  • Our first annual Women Innovators Conference attracted 171 female students, staff and faculty, as well as women STEM professionals
  • We also partnered with the Mayo Clinic to host the Walleye Tank Life Science Venture Competition, which attracted 18 ventures presenting to 120 executives and investors
Our two-year-old collaboration to provide the skills development component of the NIH-funded MN-Reach medical commercialization research initiative has begun to bear fruit:
  • 6 startups
  • 55 business strategies for health care products
  • 6 industry partnerships and licenses
  • $3 million commercialization research funding (NIH and UMN sources)
Additional outcomes include:
  • 6 teams accepted to National I-Corp Teams program (100% yield),
  • $500,000+ commercialization SBIR/STTR grants and angel funding 
  • 3 additional startups launched
  • 9 venture competition semifinalists and prize winners (MN Cup, Clean Tech Open, Walleye Tank) 
Thank you to our collaborators and participants!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

10 Practices of Highly Effective Entrepreneurs

Brian Cohen is a founding partner of New York Venture Partners and has been chairman of New York Angels for nearly a decade.  He's met a lot of aspiring entrepreneurs and noticed a pattern that distinguishes the most successful entrepreneurs from the rest.  In his experience, highly effective entrepreneurs master the following ten practices:

10 Practices of Highly Effective Entrepreneurs

Now let's translate insight into personal action:
Which few of these practices are current strengths?  
How can you build on these strengths and become a master of these practices?

Which two of these practices are limiting your effectiveness today? 
How can you "learn while doing" by collaborating with others who are strong in these areas?

Sunday, April 2, 2017

MN Cup, Walleye Tank…. Why You Should Enter a Venture Competition

The venture competition season is upon us in Minnesota!
April 14 is the deadline for Walleye Tank life science venture competition out of Mayo Clinic. 

April 28 is the deadline for the Minnesota Cup, the largest state-wide venture competition in the U.S., with 8 divisions and over $450,000 in prize money.

Too often, pre-revenue entrepreneurs and soon-to-be entrepreneurs feel that it is too early to enter a venture competition.  Not true!  There are many benefits to entering a venture competition, whether or not you win the grand prize.    

Participating in a venture competition can help you to:

  • Think comprehensively about the business

  • Distill your communication – concisely share the key points

  • Test your key messages – are they as meaningful to others as they are to you?

  • Practice pitching to potential investors

  • Identify your weaknesses and obstacles to gaining business traction

  • Get feedback and advice from experts and investors

  • Get public exposure through the competition’s publicity efforts

  • Develop credibility (with potential customers, employees, partners, investors)

  • (Maybe) win thousands of dollars 
Two key dates: 
  • April 14 - Walleye Tank life science venture competition.  Note that qualifying winners of the junior and professional angler divisions will automatically be placed as semi-finalists in the Minnesota Cup!
 Good luck!