UTHSC Hosts TEDMEDLive Simulcast

From April 10 to 13, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center hosted a TEDMEDLive Simulcast on its Memphis campus, inviting about 250 local health care professionals to participate in each day’s events.  TEDMED gathered 1,200 adventurous thinkers and doers from a wide array of medical and non-medical disciplines at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.  For three and a half days, the uniquely diverse community explored the ideas, innovations and challenges that will shape the future of health and medicine for 300 million Americans and the world.

The live simulcast included 11 sessions, featuring 50 presenters and topics.  Each speaker took the stage for about 15 to 18 minutes, with very few slides, no PowerPoint and no panel discussions.  Speakers shared stories and experiences from their lives that connected the participants to topics in a personal way that was surprising.  Described as Cirque du Soleil for the mind, the HD simulcast of TEDMED gave the audience an opportunity to interact directly with the TEDMED stage and to communicate with TEDMED speakers after the conference.

Speakers for this year’s TEDMED conference included: Francis S. Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health; Gail McGovern, president and CEO of the American Red Cross, Cookie Monster from “Sesame Street,” and Todd Park, U.S. Chief Technology Officer to The White House.  TEDMED featured entertainment from a variety of performers including singer Jill Sobule, spoken word artist Sekou Andrews, and urban acrobatics group Traces.

“I am very excited that UTHSC joins more than 2,000 simulcast locations to host this one-of-a-kind event to spark inspiration, innovation, and imagination,” said Chancellor Steve Schwab, MD.  “This is just another way for us to fulfill our research mission by constantly learning and communicating with our partners in the community and our health care constituents nationwide.”

~Dee Helton, Student Ambassador at UT Health Science Center

University of Tennessee Health Science Center- Innovation Awards Spotlight Discoveries with Potential to Transform Lives

On January 20, 2012, more than 20 researchers at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) were recognized for their work in both developing and commercializing discoveries that have the potential to transform the lives of people in Tennessee and throughout the world.

At the annual Innovation Awards ceremony, hosted by the University of Tennessee Research Foundation (UTRF) and held at the UTHSC Student-Alumni Center, plaques and certificates were awarded to individuals earning patents and licenses.  Also recognized were those researchers who started new businesses based on their inventions.  About 50 UTHSC team members and guests attended the luncheon ceremony on the university’s campus in the heart of the Memphis Medical Center.

“This ceremony recognizes deserving inventors and the innovations they have made at the UT Health Science Center,” Richard Magid, UTRF vice president, said. “UTRF is honored to be able to assist these inventors in moving their discoveries from the laboratory to the marketplace.”

“UT Health Science Center is committed to all aspects of our research mission,” said Chancellor Steve J. Schwab, MD, UTHSC’s top administrative officer.  “We are delighted to be here today to congratulate and celebrate the UTHSC innovators who are a critical element in continuing to drive our research mission forward.”

“In order to have a successful commercialization, you first need to have a product that works, that is suitable for scale, and that is approved by the FDA,” stated guest speaker Shannon McCool, DPh, chairman and chief executive of RxBio, Inc., an early stage biopharmaceutical company that has spun out of UTHSC, and which was recently awarded a $15 million federal contract.  “Then, you need two types of resources; people power and financial resources.”

Patents are awarded for unique technologies, and to protect inventions that may benefit society.  Fewer than 10 percent of the discoveries at UT are eventually granted patents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, illustrating the level of innovation and dedication of the researchers.

Inventors awarded patents include:

  • Duane Miller, PhD, and Mitchell Steiner, MD: Methods of treating or preventing muscle loss in wasting disorders  such as cachexia, malnutrition, tuberculosis and kidney failure;
  • Duane Miller, PhD: Methods of manufacturing SARMS, an important class of experimental pharmaceutical compounds;
  • Duane Miller, PhD: Methods of treating or preventing muscle loss;
  • Michael Whitt, PhD: Recombinant viruses useful for gene therapy or other biotechnology applications;
  • Brian Kelly, PhD, and Denis DiAngelo, PhD: A machine for realistic biomechanical testing of the performance of spinal implant devices;
  • Bob Moore, PhD, Himanshu Bhattacharjee, PhD,  Ryan Yates, PhD, PharmD: New experimental pharmaceutical compounds for treating cancer or inflammatory diseases;
  • Duane Miller, PhD: Experimental pharmaceutical compounds that can be used to treat a variety of hormone-related conditions.

Once a technology or idea has been patented, it may be licensed to outside companies for further development and commercialization.  Licenses stemming from patented technologies generate revenue for the university and may be the basis for starting new companies, which contributes to local and regional economic development.

Inventors recognized for a technology licensed in the past year include:

  • Lawrence Pfeffer, PhD, and Ziyun Du, PhD, for a cell line on sale as a research tool;
  • Marko Radic, PhD, for a monoclonal antibody on sale as a research tool;
  • Bob Moore, PhD, Charles Yates, PhD, PharmD, Duane Miller, PhD, Himanshu Bhattacharjee, PhD, John Buolamwini, PhD, and Mathangi Krishnamurthy, PhD (no longer employed by UTHSC), for experimental cancer drugs;
  • Leonard Lothstein, PhD, Polly Hoffmann, PhD, Trevor Sweatman, PhD, Mervyn Israel, PhD (no longer employed by UTHSC), for experimental cancer and cardiology drugs;
  • Duane Miller, PhD, Jayapraka Pagadala, PhD, Jena Steinle, PhD, and Kimberly Williams, PhD (no longer employed by UTHSC), for experimental ophthalmology drugs;
  • Emma Tillman, PharmD, Michael Storm, PhD, and Richard Helms, PharmD, for an infant and pediatric nutrition supplement;
  • John Cromwell, MD (no longer employed by UTHSC), for a device to aid surgical recovery.


Researchers recognized for starting a new business include:

  • Himanshu Bhattacharjee, PhD, John Buolamwini, PhD, Duane Miller, PhD, Bob Moore, PhD, and Ryan Yates, PhD, PharmD: Cancer-drug development;
  • John Cromwell, MD (no longer employed by UTHSC): Post-operative recovery device;
  • Richard Helms, PharmD, Michael Storm, PhD, and Emma Tillman, PharmD: Pediatric and infant nutrition supplement.

~Dee Helton, Student Ambassador at UT Health Science Center

University of Tennessee Health Science Center – Invention to Venture Tennessee 2011!

Just imagine a room filled with entrepreneurs: tall ones, short ones, rich ones, poor ones, experts, and novices… the list goes on and on. These entrepreneurs travelled from all over—Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Texas, and Arkansas. All of these entrepreneurs united for Invention to Venture: Tennessee 2011! Sessions were lively with questions and discussion! Topics included:

Idea Validation & Opportunity Assessment by Mike Sherman of MB Venture Partners

Sales & Marketing in the Life Sciences by Patrick Wilson of Medtronic

Building the Team by Jan Bouten of Innova and Allan Daisley of Memphis Bioworks Foundation

Finding the Funds Panel by Andrew Seamons of Pittco Capital Partners, Eric Mathews of LaunchMemphis and Brad Silver of Computable Genomics

Intellectual Property & Licensing by Susan Fentress of Harris Shelton Hanover Walsh, PLLC

FDA & Regulations by Michael Meagher of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Business Planning in the Life Science by Michael Graber of Southern Growth Studio

The highlight of the event was the Experiences in Entrepreneurship Luncheon featuring Pitt Hyde, Founder of AutoZone. The event even attracted media attention from The Commercial Appeal (check out the article at http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2011/nov/12/success-story/). Overall, Invention to Venture: Tennessee 2011 was a huge success. Thanks to all of the speakers and the organization team that made it happen!

~Dee Helton, Student Ambassador at UT Health Science Center

University of Tennessee Health Science Center – Vaccine on Path for Commercialization

An international collaboration between Vaxent, a Memphis-based early stage vaccine development company in the Memphis Bioworks Foundation Incubator, and The Pan-Provincial Vaccine Enterprise Inc. (PREVENT), a Centre of Excellence for Commercialization and Research (CECR) in Saskatchewan, has put a vaccine for group A streptococcus (Strep-A) back on the path for potential commercialization.  Under the terms of the agreement, PREVENT receives the exclusive worldwide license to progress vaccine candidates through developing vaccine formulations, manufacturing, completing preclinical studies and conducting clinical trials.  Both parties will participate in the commercialization process under a cost-sharing and revenue-sharing arrangement.

Group A streptococcus is a significant cause of pharyngitis or “strep throat” in children, as well as other more serious diseases such as streptococcal toxic shock syndrome, necrotizing fasciitis (so-called “flesh-eating disease”) and acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease. There are 11 million physician office visits for sore throat or suspected strep throat in the U.S. each year, with 15 to 30 percent of those cases confirmed positive for group A streptococcus.   The total cost (direct health care and indirect productivity loss) of these infections is estimated to be $2 billion annually in the U.S., alone.

The Strep-A vaccine was developed over 25 years of laboratory research by James B. Dale, MD, Gene H. Stollerman Professor of Medicine and Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, Tennessee. Dr. Dale is the Chief Scientific Officer for Vaxent.  Since April, 2008 Vaxent has been a part of the Memphis Bioworks Incubator.

“The 30-valent vaccine for Strep-A is the most complex genetically engineered vaccine ever developed for clinical trials,” said Dale.  “It will cover between 90 and 95 percent of Strep-A found in North America and could have a significant impact on the incidence of strep throat and more serious, invasive infections. In addition, an effective Strep-A vaccine could lead to a significant decrease in the need for antibiotic administration in children, thus reducing the risk of antibiotic resistance of other bacteria.”

Other childhood vaccines, such as Prevnar designed to prevent the most common and serious pneumococcal infections, has had a profound impact on the health of children worldwide.  Prevnar is recommended for all children under the age of two. Wordwide sales are predicted to reach $5-6 billion by 2014.

“Vaxent is an excellent example of local science and technology moving from the research laboratory to local entrepreneurial incubation and now on to the next step toward the marketplace,” said Dr. Steve Bares, president and executive director of the Memphis Bioworks Foundation.  “Our ability as a community to successfully nurture our local science will have long term benefits for our community, and in this case for world health.”

Over a three year period, it is expected that the agreement will progress through manufacture of the vaccine, to pre-clinical testing, to a phase 1 clinical trial in adult volunteers.  Only after success at this stage will an age step-down study be launched to test the vaccine in adolescents and children.

Strep-A diseases are more common in children than adults.  Illness ranges from uncomplicated pharyngitis to invasive toxic shock syndrome, necrotizing fasciitis (flesh eating disease), cellulitis, sepsis (blood infection), pneumonia, and subsequent complications such as rheumatic fever and kidney disease.  There are 616 million cases of pharyngitis caused by Strep-A worldwide each year. Rheumatic heart disease affects millions of children and adults in the world and may cause over 1 million deaths per year. At least 18.1 million cases of invasive infections occur each year in children and adults. There are at least 517,000 deaths globally each year due to severe Strep-A infections; necrotizing fasciitis kills about 30 percent of patients and streptococcal toxic shock syndrome has a mortality rate of 30 to 70 percent.

Strep-A vaccine development was recently discussed at the Global Vaccine Research Forum of the World Health Organization.  Additionally, in 2009 Vaxent was recognized by the World Vaccine Congress as a finalist for the Best Prophylactic Vaccine of the year award.  The finalists are selected based on nominations by peer companies and careful review by the World Vaccine Congress selection committee.

~Dee Helton, Student Ambassador at UT Health Science Center


University of Tennessee Health Science Center- Making Memphis a Hotbed for Entrepreneurial Success

When you think about entrepreneurship, technology, start-up companies, and venture capital, there are several areas in the United States that come to mind: West coast cities such as San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, San Diego; east coast cities such as Boston, New York, Washington DC. Rarely, and certainly only within the past few years, would a city such as Memphis, Tennessee, ever be considered.

Recently, The Wall Street Journal published its interactive map showcasing the areas that have gained venture capital within the first six months of 2011. I was excited and pleased to see that Memphis had a dot on the map. While this might not seem like a big deal, since moving to Memphis, I have seen and learned that many people and organizations have poured their time and resources into making Memphis a viable community for start-up companies.

While procuring funds is an important part of a region’s entrepreneurial success, it is only a small part of the whole. To build a practical network for new company expansion, Memphis will need inspiration from universities, cooperation from companies, and successful mentors that are willing to dedicate their time and knowledge.

Everyone in the community, from student researchers to venture capitalists, has applied themselves diligently to create a space for new companies to grow and succeed. I believe it is imperative to the future of our local economy to pool our resources and continue the hard work. Being placed on The Wall Street Journal Map is an achievement in which Memphis should be proud.

~Dee Helton, Student Ambassador at UT Health Science Center


Upcoming Events for Memphis:

Business Model Bootcamp- September 24, 2011; 8:30am – 3:30pm

More information: http://bootcampfall2011.eventbrite.com/

Tech Cocktails- September 28, 2011; 5:30pm-8pm

Location: Bhan Thai

Memphis Research and Innovation Expo- October 6, 2011; 9am – 4pm

More information: http://www.memphis.edu/centennial/events.php

University of Tennessee Health Science Center- Sponsorship Tips to Put Your Event in Tip Top Shape!

I know that several of our NCIIA Student Ambassadors brought up the concern of how to raise sponsorships for their entrepreneurial event, whether it is an Invention 2 Venture or a TEDx. So, my first blog post will be some tips that I found helpful when I started raising money for the various organizations I have worked for. Raising sponsorship is not as hard as you might think. It requires vigor and endurance, an occasional display of staggering boldness, a plan of action, and time.

(1) Start early! Most companies allocate a certain amount of money for sponsorships, so it is important to get in on that money before it is gone. So, start contacting companies as early as you can!

(2) Set a budget. You need to know how much you really need to accomplish an event, and the sponsors will want to know how their money is going to be used. I personally like to set up a budget with 3 levels. The first level is the minimum amount of money you will need to put on the event—if you don’t reach this mark, the event cannot happen. The second level is the amount of money you would like to have to implement all of your reasonable ideas—obtaining an interesting/somewhat known speaker, using color flyers instead of black and white, purchasing a bit more advertisement space, etc. The third level is the amount of money you would like to have so that you are not limited in anyway. Granted, this still needs to be a reasonable, attainable amount, but it never hurts to dream big!

(3) Provide incentives. Most companies will be very interested in how they will benefit from sponsoring your event. Know your target and make those benefits most appealing to them. A major benefit will be in advertising opportunities—putting their logo on any flyers or promotional products you send out, having them set up a booth at your event, allowing them to give a short shout out during the event, etc. Be creative and make sure their sponsorship is prominently visual. The more exposure they will receive, the more likely they will help. It might even be helpful to develop an offer sheet which includes: value proposition, why, where, when, how, how much, who, and what.

(4) Start by asking! I give the same advice to a boy interested in dating a girl as I do to people trying to raise money—JUST ASK! This might seem fairly obvious, but you would be surprised by how many people are afraid to ask for sponsorships. This is the part where the staggering boldness factors in, but remember, the worst outcome possible is that they will just say no. Write a short, concise email summarizing the reason why you are holding the event. Tell them what you are doing (the challenge or event), why you are doing it (the purpose), when you are doing it, and specifically what you would like from them as a sponsor (money, advertisement, speaker, etc.) Follow up that you would like to meet with them and discuss the details.

(5) Take advantage of your current contacts/relationships. Companies are more likely to sponsor you if you have some sort of credibility with them. Instead of just cold calling/emailing, have a friend or colleague introduce you to the company. Companies are 80x more likely to support you if you have a connection. Utilize every connection you have, both personal and professional!

And finally, my best advice: smile, stay positive, and say thank you. Fundraising enhances you as a person and will increase the impact of your event!

~ Dee Helton, Student Ambassador at UT Health Science Center

Technology Entrepreneurship Across the Nation!


Congratulations to each of the thirteen new NCIIA Student Ambassadors from across the nation for the 2011 – 2012 school year.  These Student Ambassadors will serve as advocates  for NCIIA, driving the mission of the organization.  For more information on NCIIA, view the website at www.nciia.org.

This blog will serve as an opportunity for Student Ambassadors to highlight entrepreneurial activities on campuses and provide insight to resources that students can leverage.  Increased collaboration between campuses will lead to a greater impact in furthering the NCIIA mission.