The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) wants to tap into startups and entrepreneurs to help solve systemic health challenges.
The federal agency is expanding its innovation accelerator network that supports small and startup biotechnology innovators to speed up the development of products for biodefense and other health security needs. HHS' Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) unveiled the network last year with eight accelerators. The network is spearheaded by ASPR's Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).
The five new accelerators include Emory University and Georgia Institute of Technology (Coulter Translational Program) in Atlanta; Plug and Play Tech Center in San Francisco; University of Missouri Midwest BioAccelerator (MU-MBAr) in Columbia; University Enterprise Labs in partnership with gener8tor in St. Paul-Minneapolis; and Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.
These organizations expand the existing network, providing geographic coverage into areas of the country previously underrepresented in the network, HHS officials said.
“In the first year, our accelerator network reached audiences outside of normal government channels, fostering innovative solutions to improve national health security and to provide business expertise and laboratory space for startups and small businesses,” Rick Bright, Ph.D., deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response and director of BARDA, said in statement.
To build a pipeline of products for BARDA’s Division of Research, Innovation and Ventures (DRIVe), these accelerators identify products and solutions developed by entrepreneurs, innovators, startups and academics around the U.S. to meet biodefense and other health security needs. The accelerators provide innovators with business and other services such as regulatory support and laboratory space.
DRIVe takes advantage of powers granted to BARDA under the 21st Century Cures Act to fund innovation through both grants and venture capital investment.
Accelerators introduce innovators to BARDA solicitations for funding consideration. One in 3 innovators working with DRIVe comes through the accelerator network.
Sepsis is a key focus for DRIVe, including identifying innovations and interventions to reduce the incidence, morbidity, mortality and cost of sepsis.
Sepsis is the leading cause of death for hospital patients and leading cause of readmissions. Recent research suggests that, although progress is being made in mortality, half of sepsis patients fail to fully recover from the condition.
In addition to focusing on sepsis, DRIVe's projects include ENACT, or Early Notification to Act, Control and Treat. This program aims to fund technologies and platforms that provide early, actionable information to detect illnesses before people even know they are sick.
DRIVe also focuses on other disruptive innovations and novel technologies that can transform health security.
The accelerator network began with eight accelerators located in regional hubs across the country where health security products and technologies in biotechnology, life science research and medical innovations are heavily concentrated.
Those initial accelerators include the Center for Biotechnology at Stony Brook in Long Island, New York; First Flight Venture Center in Raleigh, North Carolina; Life Science Washington Institute in Seattle; MedTech Innovator in Los Angeles; Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center at UMass in Lowell; New Orleans BioInnovation Center; Texas Medical Center Innovation Institute in Houston; and University City Science Center in Philadelphia.