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Innovation Ecosystem Brings Entrepreneurship 101 to Busy Scientists

Published on December 11, 2020 in Cornerstone Blog
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Free, open education resource supports
    entrepreneurship and innovation.

A free, open education resource gives busy scientists the opportunity to learn the nuts and bolts of entrepreneurship and innovation.

limjr [at] email.chop.edu (By Jillian Rose Lim)

Editor's Note: The online community referenced in this article went live on the Pubpub platform and can be accessed at https://academicentrepreneurship.pubpub.org/.

While many scientists are skilled in the scientific method, the nuts and bolts of entrepreneurship can be a whole other world to learn. Now, a new, free open education resource developed by Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and University of Pennsylvania leaders provides busy scientists with tools, advice, and best practices to support their clinical, programmatic, commercial, and research innovations.

As of December, nearly 20,000 readers around the world downloaded the Academic Entrepreneurship Book for Medical and Health Scientists, with chapters that range from drug development to writing a business plan, intellectual property to building a team, and many topics in between. One of its editors, Flaura Winston, MD, PhD, founder and scientific director of the Center for Injury Research and Prevention (CIRP) at CHOP, called the book "a resource that helps us to very quickly learn what we need to move our innovation ideas forward."

Academic Entrepreneurship addresses a knowledge gap among our brightest minds.

Academic Entrepreneurship grew out of a partnership between CHOP's Innovation Ecosystem Initiative and Penn's Institute for Translational Medicine and Therapeutics (ITMAT) to address a knowledge gap among our brightest minds.

"We learned there was a need to improve the capacity of people to be able to turn their ideas into action," said Dr. Winston, who also leads the Innovation Ecosystem. The Innovation Ecosystem is a connective framework supported by a cross-functional CHOP team who are exploring optimal ways to build culture, pathways, and capacity to translate innovation into implementation as policies, programs, or other efforts.

"As scientists, we've learned and practice the scientific method," Dr. Winston said. "In order to take our great findings and realize their potential in saving lives and reducing suffering, there is a companion method — the discipline of innovation. What we're doing in the Innovation Ecosystem is codifying this discipline and turning it into accessible content and full curricula for people who want to learn more."

A Boon for Scientists With Ideas Poised for Innovation

Academic Entrepreneurship has something for anyone who wants to make a difference with their discoveries. Need to write a business plan? Linda Miller, PhD, from CHOP Strategy co-wrote a chapter on that.

Interested in innovations for community and hospital change? Brian Jenssen, MD MSHP, describes how to translate findings into community benefit (social entrepreneurship), and Amanda Ackermann, MD, PhD, explains how to bring discoveries to our patients at CHOP (intrapreneurship).

If a scientist is about to go to the Office of Technology Transfer with a question, reading the chapter on "Working with the University Technology Transfer Office" can prepare them to start that conversation and initiate a productive relationship that will guide them through an institute's intellectual property policies.

"I don't think that the researcher has to necessarily become an expert in these areas," Dr. Winston said. "But I think you need to have a basic familiarity so that you can actually talk to other people. This resource is truly the place for when a person might think, 'I think I've discovered something that could be a drug to cure a pediatric disease.' But what does the process look like for drug development? There is a very popular chapter on orphan drug development."

A Book that Builds a Community of "Boundary-spanners"

Seventy-seven authors and counting have thus far contributed to Academic Entrepreneurship, which currently contains more than 50 chapters divided across five major topics: academia, people, ideation, intellectual property-regulatory, and finance. The book's diverse contents showcase the collaborative nature of the project. Postdoctoral fellows, trainees, junior and senior investigators all have contributed their expertise to its pages, often creating chapters as teams and basing their topics on a previously given lecture.

In fact, one of the book's most salient features is that it's written by, and for, individuals whom Dr. Winston calls "boundary-spanners," people who can connect two fields or specialties, or take two individuals who don't typically communicate in the same work-language (i.e. scientists and entrepreneurs), and help them work together.

Helge Hartung, MD, a physician in the Division of Hematology at CHOP, co-authored a chapter called "Human-Centered Design: Understanding Customers' Needs Through Discovery and Interviewing" with Sarah Rottenberg, executive director of the Integrated Product Design Master's program at Penn. Another researcher, Jason Van Batavia, MD, urologist at CHOP, penned a chapter, "Strategic Planning and Costs of FDA Regulation" with Seth J. Goldenberg of Veeva Systems.

Uniquely, Dr. Winston and fellow creators of Academic Entrepreneurship also tapped administrative operation experts at CHOP to share their wisdom. Take, for instance, Zev Sunleaf, vice president of Technology Transfer, Innovation, and Research Contracts at CHOP, who wrote the section on "Building a Successful Start-up Team" with Maura Weber, of ETHOS Health Communications.

"We're often highlighting our science experts at CHOP, but there are so many operational administrative experts here that make the translational research engine tick," Dr. Winston said. "We have unbelievably experienced people — who actually all love to mentor and teach — contributing to this resource, which is really incredible."

Turning Academic Entrepreneurship Into a 'Living Text'

Unlike a printed book, one of the online resource's current advantages is that it can be continually updated and upgraded to follow the ever-changing nature of entrepreneurship and of science. In the next year, along with Suzanne Hill who leads strategy and communications for the Innovation Ecosystem, Dr. Winston hopes to convert Academic Entrepreneurship into an online community, a moderated hub where users of the resource can communicate, contribute, and collaborate.

"We hope it will be a living text that creates community," Dr. Winston said. "People will be able to add and annotate content, and interact with other people using the resource, and that's really great for an entrepreneur. Through this community, we hope that academic entrepreneurs in medical and health sciences will find mentors, colleagues, and collaborators."

Down the road, there may also be an option for users, such as instructors and their students, to create closed groups, so that they can annotate content specific to their curriculum. While the work of building out the resource as an online community is ongoing, there is no doubt that Academic Entrepreneurship in its current form is already a uniquely valuable tool for CHOP's thriving community of innovators.

"Everything we're doing with this book is precedent-setting," Dr. Winston said. "From the decision to make this entire textbook free and updated, to turning it into a living textbook and community — every step of this has been like a start-up, and we're so grateful to many across CHOP for their guidance, contributions and financial support."