UT Health San Antonio Launches New Accelerator for Researchers

By Iris Gonzalez
UT Health San Antonio TechNovum accelerator directors are John Fritz (left) and Sean Thompson. Photo courtesy UT Health San Antonio.

A new accelerator program designed for aspiring life science entrepreneurs has joined San Antonio’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Biomedical research institution UT Health San Antonio is launching TechNovum, a new technology commercialization accelerator for faculty researchers interested in developing their inventions for the market. John Fritz and Sean Thompson of the Office of Technology Commercialization at UT Health are co-directors and mentors for the new program and will lead the educational coaching sessions.

Each cohort will run annually from June through October. Plans for the first cohort are to invite five to eight teams of founder-inventors to join the program to develop medical devices for the market. The teams will meet weekly, typically in the evening, for two- to three-hour moderated coaching sessions. Two demo days — one open to the community and one for accredited investors — are scheduled in late October.

The accelerator will not require participants to pay a fee or exchange an equity share. San Antonio Life Sciences Institute, a joint program of UT Health San Antonio and The University of Texas at San Antonio, is funding the new accelerator program.

Founders must first complete a validated technology commercialization process established with the Office of Technology Commercialization before entering the program, said John Gebhard, the assistant vice president for the commercialization office. Fritz and Thompson are recruiting mentors with specialized experienced, such as prototype development to work with the teams. They are also inviting accredited investors to participate in the final demo day for the program.

Applications for the inaugural cohort of faculty researchers is now open through May 17. Contact the accelerator directors of TechNovum here.

“We created this accelerator because we wanted to foster an entrepreneurial culture within the Health Science Center and help increase the number of startups,” said Andrea Giuffrida, vice president for research at UT Health San Antonio. “We plan to target inventors with ideas that have a high potential for producing a commercially viable product.”

TechNovum will use the Wendy Kennedy curriculum for innovation, which helps aspiring entrepreneurs develop their idea and learn about market fit, value proposition, and pitching their technology, Fritz said TechNovum will augment the program with specific mentorship on life science concerns such as manufacturing and quality control, regulatory matters, and product reimbursement.

Carol Lauffer of Business Cluster Development in Palo Alto, California, interviewed faculty and discovered their unmet need for education and training on topics spanning ideation to commercialization, which informed the development of TechNovum.

“This program formalizes our efforts to mentor faculty researchers,” said John Gebhard, assistant vice president for the Office of Technology Commercialization. “Top tier universities have programs like this to help researchers get their groundbreaking advances to the market so this new accelerator will help UT Health be more competitive.”

The Office of Technology Commercialization is holding an event Wednesday evening featuring John Hanak, managing director of Purdue University’s Purdue Ventures. The free event is an opportunity for the community to learn more about the new accelerator program. RSVP here for more information.

UT Health San Antonio launched Tech Novum, a new accelerator for its faculty. From left: Sean Thompson, Eduardo Gonzalez, Andrea Guiffrida, and John Fritz. Photo courtesy UT Health San Antonio.
UT Health San Antonio has launched Tech Novum, a new accelerator for its faculty. From left: Sean Thompson, Eduardo Gonzalez, Andrea Guiffrida, and John Fritz. Photo courtesy UT Health San Antonio.

Both Fritz and Thompson are certified in the Wendy Kennedy methodology, which is used globally from the Purdue Foundry program to the Air Force Research Laboratory and locally at VelocityTX.

“We’re taking information that takes years to learn and compressing that into a program that only takes months,” Fritz said. “Founders will discover whether their invention can be developed into a viable company, or perhaps learn that the market has shifted or won’t accept your product at the price it takes to produce it. A founder may also realize they are not interested in assuming the risk in launching a company and may decide to pursue the idea as an advisor to the company.”

A longer term goal for UT Health is to open the accelerator program to other entrepreneurs in the community interested in taking their bioscience advances to the market. The objective would be to create a broader entrepreneurial culture for life science researchers that includes founders, mentors, investors,  and potential partners.

“We’re looking to create a mentor network in San Antonio that has been piloted at other UT institutions including MD Anderson,” Thompson said. “The accelerator fits in with our mission to train healthcare practitioners and disseminate information by taking tangible results from publicly funded research and developing newfound discoveries into products.”

The accelerator’s name came from a desire to convey the idea of technology innovation coupled with the biomedical discipline which uses Latin, Guiffrida told Startups San Antonio.

“Even if the researcher decides not to develop an invention for the market, the program’s knowledge will help founders understand how to design experiments for their next idea,” Guiffrida said. “That knowledge will be shared not only among those in the cohort but with colleagues.”

“That is our goal — to help more researchers embrace innovation as they work on their ideas for the market.”

Featured image is of John Fritz (left) and Sean Thompson of the Office of Technology Commercialization at UT Health. They will co-direct the new accelerator program. Photo courtesy UT Health San Antonio.

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