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Academic Entrepreneurship Expands Across CHOP

Published on February 13, 2024 in Cornerstone Blog · Last updated 2 months 2 weeks ago
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Academic Entrepreneurship

Students in the Academic Entrepreneurship Fundamentals course join a community of innovators at CHOP and beyond.

Each day, employees across Children's Hospital of Philadelphia convert innovative ideas into new products, services, or processes. And every day, many wish they knew how and where to begin.

It has been almost six years since a cross-functional team at CHOP called the Innovation Ecosystem (IE) set out to empower faculty and staff as innovators of solutions that bring value and support CHOP's mission.

The results of systematic needs assessments revealed a gap in high-quality introductory training in the skills and knowledge needed to bring ideas and innovations from CHOP into the larger marketplace.

"Innovators also expressed a need to connect to an innovation community," said Daria Ferro, MD, co-director of the Innovation Ecosystem. "And that is a challenge within such a dynamic organization as CHOP."

Dr. Ferro and her colleagues implemented one solution this fall: A course designed to introduce individuals at CHOP to key knowledge and resources associated with academic entrepreneurship.

By offering such training, CHOP is uniquely positioned to support our workforce and to attract new medical and health scientists who value training in clinical translation and innovation.

Indeed, by the end of the course, participants reported having greater understanding of the process for a healthcare startup, expressed excitement for the possibilities of academic entrepreneurship, and found a community of peers and mentors.

Build a Curriculum and They Will Come

The first step for IE was to create an efficient state-of-the-art resource that was relevant to medical and health scientists.

IE team members partnered with University of Pennsylvania's Institute for Translational Medicine and Therapeutics Education to curate a repository of tools, advice, and core content from subject matter experts across CHOP, the University of Pennsylvania, and industry into a series of articles, recorded events, and independent learning modules as a free open-source e-textbook called Academic Entrepreneurship for Medical and Health Scientists. Content is organized around the domains of academia, ideation, intellectual property and regulation, finance, and people.

The IE team initially provided educational programming around these domains as lunchtime "Learn and Connect" events. As participation in these sessions grew, IE co-directors, Drs. Ferro and Flaura Winston, MD, PhD, founder and former director of the Center for Injury Research and Prevention, decided to build on this success and to integrate feedback into a more in-depth academic entrepreneurship training offering.

Dr. Ferro and Course Co-Director Vicki Bartek delivered a structured, seven-week course Academic Entrepreneurship Fundamentals: A Professional Development Course in fall of 2023, with a cohort of 28 CHOP-based clinicians, researchers, and staff. The short course covered essential elements of academic entrepreneurship taught by experts from CHOP, Penn and, importantly, those outside of academia. Students acted as "consultants," applying concepts to real CHOP medical devices under development.

Course directors noted the diversity of disciplines across the cohort, including physician-trained personnel (40%), PhDs (32%), Master's (14%) and Bachelors (14%)-level trained professionals. Participants represented Radiology, Pediatrics, Surgery, Biomedical and Health Informatics, and Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine.

Participants Evaluate the Course

Dr. Ferro, Bartek, and Dr. Winston plan to incorporate faculty and student feedback into the next iteration of the Course. Early post-course data describe satisfied participants.

"We are excited to see that most of our students enjoyed the course content and speakers," Bartek said. "Nearly all of them would recommend the course to colleagues."

One participant shared that "the most valuable part of this course was the networking and the opportunity to think about how I can integrate my career at CHOP with entrepreneurship."

Participants agreed that the course gave them the tools to grow as an academic entrepreneur, and they gained both knowledge and confidence in their knowledge of the key topic areas. Immediately after the course, 50% of students reported using or intending to use knowledge from the course: "I immediately implemented the learning to one of our IRBs under consideration that had a device. The device was being considered investigative, and the course definition allowed us to challenge this consideration and [it] was changed to a non-investigative device status."

The IE team is also behind the new Expertise Knowledge Platform, which links CHOP's databases with external data sources to establish a comprehensive up-to-date tool to search CHOP's research expertise.

To find out more about the Innovation Ecosystem, please ecosystem [at] chop.edu (join the IE distribution list).