Biomedical scientists in The University of Texas System are making medical discoveries that are paving the way for new treatments for a host of potentially life-threatening diseases.

In an effort to fast- track the development of these breakthroughs, the UT System has awarded grants to train investigators on how to bring their discoveries to market.

One of these $750,000 Novel Educational Programs in Innovation and Entrepreneurship grants was recently awarded to The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. 

Patricia Hurn, associate vice chancellor for health science research for UT System, said the three-year grants are designed to foster entrepreneurism, novel research and collaboration with industry.

Encouraging entrepreneurism is the centerpiece of an initiative the UT Board of Regents began in 2007 when it set aside $5 million to promote collaborative ventures. Hurn said the UT System has awarded $3.5 million so far.

Both UTMB and UTHealth are part of translational medicine programs funded through the National Institutes of Health’s Clinical and Translational Science Awards to accelerate the conversion of laboratory discoveries into patient treatments.

Investigators for the grant said the training it provides will help scientists recognize good ideas and transform them into marketable products in the biomedical field. “We have historically trained researchers to be innovators, but now we will also train them to be entrepreneurs and commercialize their inventions,” said Dr. Allan Brasier, director of UTMB’s CTSA Institute of Transitional Sciences and co-principal investigator for the grant.

The grant is designed to develop program components, prove they work and share them with others at University of Texas campuses, said Brasier, a professor of internal medicine-endocrinology.

“The grant will be used to help promising young investigators develop their devices and therapeutics,” said Dr. David McPherson, co-principal investigator for the grant and executive director of the CTSA Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences at UTHealth, which is operated in conjunction with The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center.

McPherson is the chairman of the department of internal medicine at the UTHealth Medical School and medical director of the Heart & Vascular Institute at Memorial Hermann-TMC.

Key elements include: 

  • Workshops and classes that teach innovative practices and methods for successful entrepreneurship
  • Courses in collaborative innovation that develop and implement critical solutions to significant local challenges
  • One-on-one mentoring from business executives hired as “entrepreneurs in residence advocates”
  • Pilot funding for startup companies
  • Expert advice on legal and regulatory issues that affect startups

The grant proposal’s other co-principal investigator is Stanley Watowich, associate professor in UTMB’s department of biochemistry and molecular genetics.

The UT System awarded a second $750,000 grant for a proposal developed by The University of Texas at San Antonio and MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.