JSOnline: Medical entrepreneurs make pitches for start-up funds
Bridge to Cures helps entrepreneurs turn innovations into products
By Journal Sentinel of the
Thirteen university-affiliated start-up companies will gather Saturday for the launch of a Healthcare Innovation Pitch at Ward4 in downtown Milwaukee.
The event kicks off a program that will have entrepreneurial teams affiliated with colleges and universities in the region preparing to pitch to a panel of national venture capitalists in early December at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Innovation Campus in Wauwatosa.
“This is an amazing collection of talent, and it seems certain that some of these companies will go on to create the next generation therapeutics, devices and diagnostics — thereby generating significant revenue and social impact,” said Dan Sem, president and chief executive officer of Bridge to Cures, a nonprofit that helps entrepreneurs turn innovations into products.
The 13 start-ups are focused in a broad range of health care innovation areas, including drugs, devices, diagnostics and health care informatics or services. Most have established strong patent positions and are surrounded by teams of experienced industry experts, Sem said.
“It’s a fairly unique gathering and an important gathering because it does demonstrate that there are ideas and companies in the life science space that can come out of places outside of Madison,” said Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council and the keynote speaker for the pitch launch event.
All of the companies might not be ready to attract investors, but generally speaking, the more companies a region creates, the better the odds are of pulling in funding, Still said.
“It helps to have more companies out there pitching and making their debut,” he said.
The start-ups will be working with the Milwaukee Innovation Corps, or I-Corps site, which was established earlier this year when the National Science Foundation awarded a $300,000, three-year grant to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Under the grant, UWM is collaborating with Marquette University, Medical College of Wisconsin, the Milwaukee School of Engineering and Concordia University Wisconsin to train 90 teams to commercialize their research.
I-Corps teams receive training that uses lean start-up methods pioneered by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Steve Blank and as much as $2,400 of federal funding for travel, customer discovery and other activities to move the company forward, said Brian Thompson, president of the UWM Research Foundation. Thompson leads the Milwaukee I-Corps site with Ilya Avdeev, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at UWM.
On Dec. 4, judges will select the top overall health care innovation start-up in southeastern Wisconsin, and the best start-ups from two donor institutions: the Medical College and Concordia University Wisconsin, where Sem is a scientist and business school dean. More than $100,000 of cash and in-kind prizes will be awarded, including a legal audit from the Marquette Law and Entrepreneurship Clinic.
The event is being organized by Bridge to Cures and the Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, an academic consortium based at the Medical College of Wisconsin that is focused on advancing health care solutions.