Wake Forest Innovations, the technology collaborative between industry and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center has identified the first six inventions to receive investment funding to spur their development from the Catalyst Fund, a $15 million technology development program established by the medical center in October 2015.
The six technologies each will receive between $50,000 and $150,000 to help them advance to the next stage of development. The projects are:
- Primary hyperoxaluria, two orally bioavailable small molecules to prevent and treat certain kidney stones
- Mechanical tissue resuscitation to heal vital tissue in the heart, brain and spinal cord that has been injured or compromised
- KPC34, an orally active small molecule orphan disease therapeutic
- eCOMPASS, an electronic health record-integrated software application for chronic medical conditions
- Fix8 non-migrating stent
These first technologies were chosen after undergoing a vetting procedure, according to Jeff Brennan, vice president of technology innovation and commercialization for Wake Forest Innovations. “They enter the system as ideas. They then go through a process of selection and of being pitched to the steering committee. It’s like [the TV show] "Shark Tank,” he says.
The commercialization of the products is at different stages. For instance, eCOMPASS, a customized care plan for patients, will be the first to be commercialized, says Brennan. “It’s one year away from being implemented,” he says. Its first module will be for stroke treatment, then myocardial infarctions and traumatic brain injuries.
In contrast, the therapeutic inventions are of highest risk and the highest rewards, but take longer. For instance, the implantable and stent technologies that have received Catalyst Fund money are both Class II medical devices under the Food and Drug Administration rules because they’re invasive and will need additional testing. “Those will take years [before they go live],” Brennan says.
Brennan pointed out that the funds are investments, not grants. “They will be paid back through the process of successful license or commercialization,” he says.
The goals of the Catalyst Fund are to maximize the clinical impact and value of new technologies invented at Wake Forest, make them attractive to industry and medical practice, and increase Wake Forest’s visibility as a “hub for life science innovation,” says Brennan. The investments have been funded by Pappas Capital.
New ideas will be reviewed in the future for additional funding. “Projects get their money flowing and then scientists do what scientists do,” says Brennan.