The number of startups created at the University of Minnesota has increased steadily year over year and shows no signs of slowing down.
In 2019, UMN churned out 19 new startups based on discoveries and inventions by its researchers. And in years’ past, these young companies have gone on to raise large rounds of venture capital, get acquired or go public.
But before businesses reach these major milestones, they begin as an idea. And more often, these ideas are coming out of the school’s Earl Bakken Medical Devices Center Innovation Fellows Program.
The program provides training for physicians, engineers and scientists who are looking to identify big unmet needs. The fellows then develop solutions for these problems with the support of UMN.
“This is a program that catalyzes the careers of ambitious people wanting to figure out what to do next,” said Dan Sachs, co-director of the Innovation Fellows Program. “Our focus is on getting products into clinics that will help people. It’s less about spending time in the lab for publications and more about making products to help those in need.”
The Innovation Fellows Program concentrates on developing medical devices for a broad variety of clinical areas. The fellows spend the first weeks of the nine-month-long program learning from thought leaders in a range of industries ranging from law firms and venture capitalists and scientists from UMN’s medical school.
Later, they spend time in clinics and operating rooms to get a better idea of the challenges facing medical professionals today. Ultimately, the goal of the program is to train the next leaders in med-tech by fostering leadership and teaching risk management for medical devices.
Sachs estimates that of the 19 startups produced by the university last year, eight came from Innovation Fellows. One of these was Cerovations, a medical device company creating a drain line from the brain to the abdomen to improve the drainage of fluid off the brain after trauma. The company licenses technology that was developed by the UMN Innovation Fellows.
As it moves the research closer to commercialization, Cerovations is continuing its work as a tenant at University Enterprise Laboratories.
While the spread of Covid-19 has slowed certain industries, it has ramped up demand for innovation in medical technologies. This year’s seven Innovation Fellows have continued their research from afar and visiting campus when necessary to use equipment and lab space.
“We’re still firing on all cylinders and getting the work done that we usually get done,” Sachs said.
By Maddy Kennedy for UEL