The University of Kansas School of Engineering stands to benefit from a sweeping grant to the university from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
In early December, the Kauffman Foundation awarded $8.1 million to the university to establish the multi-disciplinary Institute for Advancing Medical Innovation. To enhance the impact of the support, KU Endowment will match the grant with contributions from other donors.
The institute will be a unique life science proof-of-concept model that draws support from higher education, philanthropy and industry experts to move medical innovations from the lab to the market.
“We are honored to receive this grant from the Kauffman Foundation to enhance and streamline the incredible efforts taking place at the University of Kansas in discovery and development of medical innovations,” said Scott Weir, PharmD, Ph.D., director of the Office of Therapeutics, Discovery and Development at the KU Cancer Center. Weir, a 20-year pharmaceutical industry veteran formerly with Marion Laboratories Inc., will head the institute as its director. “These funds will allow us to advance discoveries of drugs, medical devices, and drug-device combinations from concept to patients, allowing us to make a greater impact on the health of our community.”
The institute will focus on education and research that advances medical innovations, ultimately accelerating the number and quality of innovations that move from the bench to the bedside.
“The Institute for Advancing Medical Innovations will train medical innovators through the discovery and advancement of drug, device, and drug-device innovations,” said Paulette Spencer, D.D.S., Ph.D., Deane Ackers distinguished professor of mechanical engineering, and director of the KU Bioengineering Research Center. “The Institute represents very exciting opportunities for the KU School of Pharmacy, the School of Engineering and the Bioengineering Research Center, the School of Business, the Medical Center and collaborating hospitals.”
The grant will enable faculty to educate the next class of drug and medical device development specialists by giving workshops and courses on the commercialization process. Lisa Friis, Ph.D., associate professor of mechanical engineering, co-director of the bioengineering biomedical product design and development degree track and director, product development core for the bioengineering research center, will lead the development of the institute’s technology entrepreneurship education component. Students will be eligible for fellowship funding and will be able to learn about entrepreneurship through project support mechanisms.
“This is an extremely exciting opportunity,” Friis said. “We are looking forward to working with people from the Kauffman Foundation. I am hoping that the institute will act as a catalyst to bring in many other opportunities for project funding and entrepreneurship education.”
The grant includes seed funds for up to 24 proof-of-concept projects a year. Based upon recommendations from an advisory board, the institute may fund a varying number of projects from year to year.
“Projects supported must have a demonstrated patient need and a potential for commercialization,” Friis said. “I am very excited to have our group work with Sandy Miller (senior fellow for advancing innovation) from the Kauffman Foundation on this effort.”
The CEO of the Kauffman Foundation expressed strong support for the new institute’s structure and its pioneering approach to medical entrepreneurship.
“The institute’s formation represents lessons we have culled from years of studying the models that strengthen the ability to bring new inventions and products to market,” said Carl Schramm, Kauffman Foundation president and CEO. “We believe this institute will become a world-class resource and help define best practices in moving innovation to the real world.”
— Story by Jill Hummels. The Kauffman Foundation and KU Endowment contributed to this story.