New experiential innovation course offers university credit

September 27, 2017  //  FOUND IN: Updates & Resources

The new experiential innovation course from the Fast Forward Medical Innovation program will now offer university credit.

Imagine sitting in class and something sparks an idea for a device or diagnostic that could possibly help a patient at the bedside. You start the process of developing this idea, but at the end of the day, you probably wonder, “Where do I even start?” and “Is this even useful?”

That’s where Fast Forward Medical Innovation’s Program Accelerating Commercialization Education (PACE) courses come into play, offering medical students, fellows, clinicians and seasoned researchers a broad spectrum of educational opportunities that offer a deep, real-world understanding of translating research to market.

Starting this fall, the U-M program is expanding to include graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.

As a credit-bearing course, master’s and Ph.D. students and postdoctoral fellows can receive college credit while exploring the paths by which laboratory discoveries are commercialized. Participants can also get hands-on experience in translating research into market innovations.

“We’re very excited to partner with the U-M Office of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies to offer our first set of credit courses for students at the U-M Medical School,” said Jon Servoss, FFMI commercialization education program manager. “As an expanded version of our FFMI fullPACE program, master’s and doctoral students, as well as postdoctoral trainees in science programs, will have a unique opportunity to experience life science innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Participants have the option of taking a lecture class for two credits or the lecture and coinciding lab for three credits. The lecture class, listed as PIBS 550: Biomedical Innovation & Entrepreneurship I, is required and consists of lectures from lead instructor David Olson, Ph.D., Mentor-in-Residence at the U-M Tech Transfer Venture Center and adjunct faculty of the U-M Medical School, as well as guest experts.

Topics cover a broad range of commercialization concepts, including innovation, product development, intellectual property, regulatory considerations and medical reimbursement strategies. The weekly 90-minute course and Q&A on Wednesdays will outline commercialization pathways for novel therapeutics, research tools, medical devices, diagnostics and health IT solutions. Additionally, the class will identify considerations for innovation in the life sciences and discuss foundational biomedical business and entrepreneurship concepts.

The coinciding lab, PIBS 750: Biomedical Innovation & Entrepreneurship II, is experiential in that it applies the concepts taught during PIBS 550 to a group project. Students work in small project teams to conceive and/or advance an innovation while building the skills and network of contacts to translate an idea into a solidified concept for a commercially viable product.

These courses provide opportunities for those who are seeking a career in the biomedical industry insight into life science entrepreneurship, an opportunity to create and explore an innovation, and even development of an existing innovation or idea.

“We are excited to provide this learning gateway for our trainees to bring principles of commercialization and innovation back to their laboratories and their own science,” said Mary O’Riordan, associate dean of U-M Office of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies. “Experiential learning is foundational to career exploration and opens the door for young scientists to expand their horizons.”

Olson, a serial entrepreneur who has co-founded six biotech startups, managed early-stage businesses and authored business plans backed by more than $61 million of private and public funding, specializes in commercializing early stage life science technologies and has more than 20 years of experience in building companies and product development.

“Participation in the PACE-based courses has been tremendous across Michigan Medicine, and the energy in this class is no surprise,” Olson said. “I have had the great fortune of multiple learning opportunities as my own career evolved from academics into entrepreneuring, so it is exciting for me to offer the same to these young scientists.”

FFMI fullPACE started in 2015 as a non-curriculum program for medical residents and fellows interested in medical innovation and entrepreneurship. The initial class had nine participants from five UMMS clinical departments, including surgery, ophthalmology, radiology, internal medicine and pediatric cardiology. Within the program, participants who formed teams around two groundbreaking innovations eventually left the course and secured developmental funding and partnership. Following the success of the 2015 program, FFMI fullPACE broadened its audience in 2016 and was offered to 19 clinical house staff, including residents and fellows, along with Ph.D. students in basic science programs.

FFMI PACE is made possible with support from the William Davidson Foundation and MICHR. Questions about FFMI PACE? Contact Servoss at or 734-764-2692 or click here.