Biomedical Innovation at the University of Southern California

Here at USC, technology innovation and inter-departmental collaboration is a big priority.  Recently, the Coulter foundation granted $5M to USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering, Keck School of Medicine, and Stevens Institute for Innovation as part of their Coulter Translational Research Partnership Program.  As far as I can tell, a large chunk of this money is going to go towards developing devices aimed at problems in pediatric medicine.  Of worthy note is the fetal pacemaker being developed by USC’s Medical Device Development Facility, which has potential to assuage symptoms related to several structural defects while still in utero.

Perhaps influenced by these recent developments, there is a palpable call to action in the air around Viterbi and Keck.  I recently met with a group of bright, young undergraduate BME’s working on a much improved chest drain device, of which they plan on submitting to the BMEStart competition and E-team grants.  Students within Viterbi and Keck’s nascent Health, Technology, and Engineering program are working hard to seek out real-world problems and design solutions with the market in mind.  The NCIIA is sure to see a lot of action from that group over the next few years.

There is a lot of new collaboration happening between Viterbi and Keck, and many of these new relationships will result in impactful technology.  The NCIIA can count on many of these new technologies appearing in their competitions.

Innovation in Southern Cal: MD Students + Engineering PhD’s

Here at USC, innovation is certainly a high priority.  USC’s breakthrough HTE (Health, Technology, and Engineering) program combines Keck School of Medicine (USC’s medical school) with Viterbi School of Engineering PhD students for a four year program that will churn out biomedical device innovators by the dozens.  As non-intuitive as it sounds, it’s quite rare for medical schools to interact with engineering departments, but the administrators of HTE persevered to make it happen, with strong backing from presidents of both schools.  The NCIIA’s E-team grant readers are sure to be flooded with applications from this group!

Just in time for winter break, USC students have been presented with lots of food for thought.  Students heard from Josh Makower, biomedical entrepreneur responsible for Stanford’s BioDesign program, Exploramed biomedical device incubator, as well as numerous companies started within Exploramed.   The week prior, students and faculty were presented with a symposium focused on facilitating translating advanced biomedical technology research into commercial applications.

Design for the other 90% at USC?

Suburban USC Overlooking Downtown's 'Hustle and Grit'

Written by Jared Goodner, NCIIA student ambassador to Univ. of Southern California

I’ve been networking like a madman since I got back from a very worthwhile week over at NCIIA HQ.  Mostly because now I’ve got a great “in.”  I know plenty of guys who would scoff at chatting up a pretty brunette because they didn’t know how to begin a conversation (never me, of course! Editor’s note: mmmHmmm.).  But once you’ve got that convo started, Step 1: Chat em up (If you can make em laugh, that’s better)  Step 2: Pull a coffee date.  That’s a lot like networking.  I’d be careful taking coquetry advice from an engineer, which I am, but beginning that conversation isn’t so difficult if you’ve already got common ground.

I’ve found some common ground in what appears to be a lacking design constituency at USC.  USC (and many research institutions around the country) is becoming increasingly interested in commercializing research coming out of their laboratories (see the Coulter Foundation, NSF I-corp, HTE program).  However, despite a well-funded entrepreneurship center (a subset of Marshall School of Business) and strong engineering department, it seems to me that the campus is missing a core component of commercialization in that it lacks substantial product design talent.  The timing is right for a relationship between the engineering/business communities at USC and the design community at Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design.

There is sooo much strength in the business savvy / tech prowess / design trifecta! Being that NCIIA’s goals are socially focused, their Course and Program grants provide for an excellent opportunity to develop product design curricula focused on the “Bottom of the Pyramid” (BoP) social strata.  The term BoP refers to folks making under $2.50/day, of which there are 2.5 billion world-wide—that’s a huge underserved market.  There are existing programs that teach this sort of design – Stanford’s Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability and MIT’s D-lab are both excellent.  Paul Polak is also a great inspiration.  So no need to reinvent the wheel!  Use their success as a template and develop programs at your university.

As for USC, perhaps it’s time to meld Pasadena’s quiet hilltops with Downtown’s hustle and grit?

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

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.