San Antonio — [Corrected 2/14/18, 10:45 a.m. See below.] Money is one of the primary hurdles for innovators and entrepreneurs hoping to turn an idea into a product—particularly in the life sciences, where a drug or device can easily fail despite millions spent on research.
The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio has tried to aid its research scientists with some of those early, short-term costs by providing $5,000 to $25,000 in grant funding for projects. In its latest effort, UT Health’s commercialization office awarded 10 early-stage researchers a total of $200,000 during its third annual pitch day, held at the end of January. The money came from the university’s President’s Translational and Entrepreneurial Research Fund.
“They are usually ideas that need funding to proceed through a gap to achieve a milestone,” John Gebhard, assistant vice president at the commercialization office, wrote in an e-mail.
The award amount was down from 2017, when Gebhard’s office handed out $283,000 to 12 teams. Since 2016, two companies have formed from work done by researchers who received funding. They include MedCognition, which provides training to medical professionals using virtual reality, and AlaMab Therapeutics, a subsidiary of a drug developer that has licensed two drugs from researchers at UT Health San Antonio.
This year, a few familiar faces pitched and won awards for their research. James Lechleiter—a UT Health professor who co-founded a brain-drug maker based in Cambridge, MA, called Astrocyte Pharmaceuticals—won a grant for his research into compounds and methods of treating various neurodegenerative diseases.
Randolph Glickman and Saher Maswadi, co-founders of EchoLase, also won for their work on a laser-imaging medical device. Meanwhile, Steven Venticinque took in award money after pitching his medical device for airway management for a second year in a row. Other pitches included research into treating cancer, two apps, and research into combating surgical infections. [Corrects Glickman’s first name.]