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UCSF-Developed Entrepreneurship Course for Life Scientists Launched by NIH

NIH Adopts the Successful NSF I-Corps Model to Translate Research for Commercialization

By Laura Kurtzman

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has launched a pilot program to help life science entrepreneurs commercialize their technology, based on a course developed by the University of California, San Francisco. The course was first taught last fall by the Entrepreneurship Center at UCSF and Steve Blank, architect of the Lean LaunchPad framework. UCSF and Blank adapted the Lean LaunchPad methodology to be applicable for life science and healthcare ventures.

Lean LaunchPad has started to replace traditional business plan-based courses as the foundation of entrepreneurship education. First implemented at UC Berkeley and Stanford University, the framework is now taught in more than 100 universities and has become the National Science Foundation (NSF)’s standard for commercializing science through its I-Corps program, which has trained more than 300 teams over the last three years. Teams interview a minimum of 100 market participants during the course to understand how the commercial market views the value of their science.

This 20-team pilot course is being offered through a collaboration between the NSF I-Corps and NIH to help NIH-funded researchers evaluate their ventures’ commercial potentials.

UCSF Entrepreneurship Center Director Stephanie Marrus, who implemented the life sciences version of the course with Blank at UCSF, said, “We are excited that NIH recognizes the value of Lean LaunchPad in the life science domain and has adopted our course and faculty. We expect that Lean LaunchPad at NIH will have the same major impact on startup teams that we saw at UCSF last fall. We believe that this market-based approach to vetting startup ideas can make the difference between success and failure.”

The first I-Corps @NIH cohort includes life science and healthcare teams focused on therapeutics, diagnostics and medical devices. Each team is a funded company that has received an NIH SBIR Phase 1 or STTR grant.

The Entrepreneurship Center at UCSF provides the knowledge, support and connections needed by scientists and clinicians to become entrepreneurs. The Center seeks to create an innovation community and commercialize UCSF inventions through startup ventures. Our entrepreneurial ecosystem includes the Silicon Valley business community, Berkeley and Stanford.

UCSF is the nation's leading university exclusively focused on health. Now celebrating the 150th anniversary of its founding as a medical college, UCSF is dedicated to transforming health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. It includes top-ranked graduate schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy; a graduate division with world-renowned programs in the biological sciences, a preeminent biomedical research enterprise and top-tier hospitals, UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children's Hospitals.