FFMI in 10th cohort of groundbreaking innovation educational program, fastPACE
For medical students, fellows, clinicians or seasoned researchers at University of Michigan who have a big idea that could potentially impact patients, there is a place they have been able to go for the last five years: Fast Forward Medical Innovation’s (FFMI) unique fastPACE course, a groundbreaking educational program that is the only one of its kind at U-M.
The course shows clinician-researchers and biomedical research scientists how to successfully put their ideas on viable paths to commercialization through a process of accelerated business planning and customer discovery. And in March, the FFMI Commercialization Education department launched its 10th cohort and fifth year of the four-week program that provides a real-world learning experience for researchers exploring the commercial viability of a biomedical technology.
For the program, FFMI team works in close partnership with U-M’s Clinical and Translational Science Awards organization, the Michigan Institute for Clinical & Health Research (MICHR), which supports educational programs for all learners on the commercialization of biomedical research and innovation, as well as U-M College of Engineering’s Center for Entrepreneurship (CFE) and the U-M Office of Tech Transfer (OTT).
“OTT is proud to be involved with educational programming for all learners on the commercialization of biomedical innovations,” said Kelly B. Sexton, Ph.D., Associate Vice President for Research – Technology Transfer and Innovation Partnerships. “The fastPACE course is instrumental in helping participants successfully put their ideas on viable paths to commercialization through a process of accelerated business planning and our team is glad to be part of this success.”
The FFMI fastPACE course dates back to 2014 when FFMI and CFE co-designed and implemented an accelerated, biomedical-focused version of the NSF I-Corps program. Designed for medical academicians exploring the commercial potential of early stage ideas, FFMI fastPACE uniquely supports the formation of teams of faculty, graduate, and medical students and accommodates the busy schedules of medical academicians.
“For those interested in moving forward with their early stage biomedical innovation, fastPACE is one of the best ways to take that next step,” said Jonathan Fay, Ph.D., Dixon and Carol Doll Executive Director, CFE. “Our strong partnership with FFMI has allowed numerous clinicians and researchers to create a successful business case, determine the commercial viability of their ideas, expand the network of partners, and help cultivate an innovation that could ultimately impact patient care.”
The course blends in-person and online education to help faculty researchers and clinicians prepare a business case for funding and development of their novel therapeutics, diagnostics and health IT innovations. Each team member commits to in-depth preparation, attendance at the lectures and workshops, and at least five additional hours per week for customer discovery under the guidance and mentorship of FFMI and OTT team members.
“Connecting academicians with medical and graduate students to serve as these team members helps enhance the overall experience and capitalizes on the demand from students who seek faculty mentors participating in translational research and commercialization activities,” said Jon Servoss, FFMI Director of Commercialization Education.
Since 2014, the course has graduated more than 179 project teams and 361 clinicians, researchers, and students from U-M and other institutions. As many as 75 percent of graduates from a single cohort have received follow-on funding, engaged industry partners, or enrolled in the national I-Corps program for more discovery.
This includes Helen Kales, M.D., U-M Professor and Director of the Program for Positive Imaging. She participated in the fall 2014 cohort of fastPACE, which helped with the early development of her tool, WeCareAdvisor, a web-based program that assists caregivers and long-term care staff with management of behavioral symptoms of dementia patients.
“This course helped guide our tool’s marketing focus and message to a targeted audience that ultimately led to Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization funding, which helped even more,” Kales said.
After creating a long-term care version and testing it in assisted living facilities, her innovation has garnered interested from AARP and Sunrise, a large national chain of senior living facilities.
“The boost we got both financially, as well as mentoring and advice from FFMI, was invaluable,” she added.
In addition to fastPACE, FFMI offers other courses for researchers and clinicians, including FFMI fullPACE, a 12-week structured course that provides hands-on learning and expert guidance to produce de-risked ideas for potential biomedical innovation. The education department also partners with other teams across the U-M campus for special programs such as the Innovation & Entrepreneurship: Path of Excellence, the Biotech Career Development course, and Aikens Innovation Academy at the Frankel Cardiovascular Center.
“It’s all about learning how to execute on that great ‘ah-ha’ moment and begin to commercially de-risk the project as early as possible,” Servoss said. “This is highly complementary to great science and can significantly reduce the time it takes to move a transformative idea to ultimate patient impact.”
FFMI PACE is made possible with support from the William Davidson Foundation and MICHR. Questions about the program? Contact Jon at FFMI at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-764-2692. Or, visit innovation.medicine.umich.edu/education.