TechNovum to accelerate translation of discoveries

UT Health San Antonio, the city’s main biomedical research institution, announces the establishment of TechNovum, a technology commercialization accelerator.

TechNovum will pair UT Health San Antonio faculty investigators with mentors from the business community, and coach them through the market validation of their biomedical products, preparation of a business plan, and pitching their technologies. The inaugural five to eight teams of inventors (known as Founders) will undergo a rigorous and structured entrepreneurial ideation program that includes weekly course sessions and guest speakers.

The accelerator program will run from June through October 2019 and wrap up with two demo days, one open to the community and another for accredited investors. At demo days, Founders will make a business presentation of their products.

TechNovum is supported by the San Antonio Life Sciences Institute (SALSI), a joint program of UT Health San Antonio and The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). John Fritz and Sean Thompson of the Office of Technology Commercialization at UT Health San Antonio will be the accelerator co-directors.

Moving forward with an idea

“An inventor must first understand whether his technology or product is viable in the marketplace,” Fritz said. “If it is, then the inventor must decide whether he wants to commit the time, energy and investment to establishing a startup company.”

“We start with the germ of an idea, and we accelerate, or compress, the amount of time it takes to move the idea to the next stage, such as to an incubator,” Thompson said.

Guest speakers will discuss essential topics such as regulatory issues, financing and product development. Design controls, engineering and biocompatibility are among the many key factors that require attention in the development process.

Each Founder will be accepted via a validated technology commercialization process established with the Office of Technology Commercialization. “We have an in-house, stringent, stage-gated process to determine the commercial viability as well as intellectual property value of every new invention we receive,” said John Gebhard, Ph.D., assistant vice president for the Office of Technology Commercialization. “Any Founder will have passed this gated process to be considered for the accelerator.”

Collaborative environment

Founders in the first TechNovum cohort will build their business skills and gain knowledge of resources to translate ideas into products and companies.

“San Antonio has an increasingly robust and collaborative bioscience ecosystem that provides unlimited partnership opportunities for TechNovum,” said Andrea Giuffrida, Ph.D., vice president for research at UT Health San Antonio. “TechNovum will be collaborative and complementary to all that exists in the ecosystem and highly valuable to all investigators with an entrepreneurial spirit.”

Carol Lauffer of Business Cluster Development in Palo Alto, Calif., assisted UT Health San Antonio in the conceptualization of TechNovum. She explained the difference between an accelerator and an incubator.

“An accelerator is a fixed-term, cohort-based program that puts innovators and entrepreneurs through a rigorous process of customer validation, business model creation and initial product development, and culminates in a demo day,” Lauffer said.

“Incubators, meanwhile, provide an array of business support resources and services that are individualized and milestone-based, over typically an 18- to 24-month period,” she said. “Most incubators provide facilities for clients — the type of facility space (office, wet lab, dry lab, etc.) varies depending upon the types of clients served. Companies that participate in an incubator are startup stage, versus a stage in which they are conducting proof of concept.”

“We are confident that, with support from the community, TechNovum will eventually reach out to investors and entrepreneurs who are not affiliated with UT Health San Antonio,” Dr. Giuffrida said.

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