March 2015

CLICK HERE for more details 


Early Tech Development Course - 4-week course in May and June 2015 

CLICK HERE for more details and to register for this FREE program 

'Precision medicine' model may help prevent diabetes in at-risk population

Study reveals how C. difficile disrupts the gut

T-cell therapy clinical trial now offered to cancer patients at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital

Are morcellation fears overblown?

U-M Medical School

UMMS Office of Research

Medicine at Michigan

U-M Business Engagement Center

U-M Tech Transfer

Innovate Blue

U-M Main Page



ThioMon Computational Test Strives to Become the New "Gold Standard" Diagnostic for Inflammatory Bowel Disease

New computational-based diagnostic test allows for quicker, more accurate, and less expensive treatment option

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) significantly reduces the quality of life of 20 million individuals globally and 1.4 million Americans. Presently, IBD patients have limited treatment options. They can either select a very expensive biologic agent-based approach, or rely upon thiopurine analog therapy. Use of thiopurine analogs are less costly, but their use currently requires expensive testing to ensure that patients aren't harmed by long-term use. Additionally, the current generation of molecular-biology based testing for possible thiopurine analog therapeutic level and toxicity is imprecise, at best.

The limitations of the currently available testing solutions represent a major setback for clinicians seeking to use long-term thiopurine therapy safely without adverse effects for patients, such as hepatotoxicity, shingles, lymphoma, and other complications of immunosuppression.


A team of U-M faculty, Ulysses G.J. Balis, M.D., Pathology; Peter D.R. Higgins, M.D., Ph.D., MSc, Internal Medicine; and Ji Zhu, Ph.D., Statistics, have developed and implemented a computational algorithm, ThioMon, which results in highly cost-effective and accurate testing, allowing for a simplified treatment of IBD with Thiopurine analogs such as Azathioprine.  


ThioMon is a machine-learning based algorithm that uses encoded data already present in a patient's electronic health record. Specifically, existing routine clinical lab test results are used to offer a superior prediction of biological response to Azathioprine therapy, as compared to expensive, bench-based molecular testing. The ThioMon computational assay is already in use at the University of Michigan, allowing doctors to make clinical decisions for patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease.  


"The ThioMon test is more accurate than the existing metabolite test, costs less, and returns results faster," says Dr. Balis. "We have complete confidence that in time, with appropriate clinical exposure, the calculated ThioMon assay will become the new 'gold standard' of care for predicting and maintaining optimal biological response with respect to Thiopurine monitoring."  


The team used funding and support provided by the University of Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization for Life Sciences program (MTRAC) to help them further their research.


"MTRAC funding has been a huge help as we develop ThioMon," says Dr. Balis. "We were able to conduct the required split sample study, an industry-standard requirement for clinical test validation, where we collected IBD patient samples and validated for the ThioMon test's equivalence across disparate health institutions.  This study was required to validate the clinical efficacy of the test for more than simply University of Michigan patients.  With this effort nearing completion, we are now much better prepared to make the ThioMon test available on a national and international basis."


"In addition, MTRAC business support has been fundamental in building our outside industry relationships and helping move our product to market as a nationally-offered subscription service from U-M's MLabs."


MTRAC is supported by the U-M Medical School, the U-M Tech Transfer Office, and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and works to "fast forward" projects with a high potential of commercial success, with the ultimate goal of positively impacting human health. ThioMon is just one of 11 projects in the 2014 cohort funded by MTRAC. And the program recently announced its 2015 MTRAC awardees, with 11 teams set to receive early commercialization development funding this year.


Innovation and Commercialization Award Added to 2015 Dean's Awards Program 

Nominations due Friday, May 1 

The Medical School Dean's Office is currently accepting nominations for its annual Dean's Awards Program, which includes several awards to honor and recognize faculty who have demonstrated exceptional accomplishments throughout the research community.  


This year, a new Innovation and Commercialization Award was added. This award recognizes a faculty member or group of faculty members who have developed a new research method, technology, or innovative service that will radically improve or transform patient health. The work of the researcher(s) should exemplify the process of accelerating ideas, insights, and technologies from the research enterprise out of the university setting via industry partnerships, start-up companies, or other commercial routes.    


Other research-specific awards include the Basic Science Research Award, Clinical and Health Services Research Award, and the Distinguished Faculty Lectureship Award in Biomedical Research


Please refer to the Dean's Awards Program website for selection criteria, a list of previous winners, and details on additional Awards Program categories including education, clinical care, and community service.  


All nominations should be made through UMMS Competition Space.  


The deadline to submit nominations is Friday, May 1. The 2015 winners will be honored in the fall during the annual Faculty and Staff Awards Dinner. 


Join the Start-Up Roadshow with the Michigan-Israel Business Bridge and FFMI  

Breakfast event highlights four portfolio companies 

The Michigan-Israel Business Bridge (MIBB) and FFMI are pleased to announce that MIBB member, The Trendlines Group, is bringing an Israel Medical Device Start-Up Roadshow to the NCRC!    

The MIBB and FFMI are co-sponsoring a breakfast event where D. Todd Dollinger, Chairman and CEO of the Trendlines Group, will present four Israeli start-ups in the biotech/agbio sectors: Omeq Medical, VisiDome, IonMed, and NeuroQuest


Wednesday, March 25


NCRC, Bldg 10, G063 and G064


CLICK HERE for more information and to register for this event. 


Stories of a Serial Entrepreneur

Entrepreneur Nathanial David, Ph.D. shares advice and experience 

Join the Tech Transfer Office as they welcome Nathanial David, Ph.D., venture partner at ARCH Venture Partners in California.  


Thursday, March 26, 2015


NCRC, Bldg 520, #1122


An entrepreneur extraordinaire and venture capitalist, Dr. David will share his experiences of being a serial entrepreneur starting in graduate school, and resulting in four technology companies that have collectively raised over $1.5 billion in funding. CLICK HERE for more information.  


Funding Available to Help Improve Health in Women and Children 

No matching funds required for this MCubed Diamond Program Project 

The MCubed Diamond Program invites faculty to check out a diamond project that is currently open for comments. It is completely funded by U-M alumnus and donor Ranvir Trehan (Trehan Foundation) and requires no unit or Principal Investigator contribution.


The goal of this project is to improve health, education, or economic outcomes for women and children in developing regions where poverty is recognized as significant. There is a strong interest in on-the-ground applications, interventions, and/or technology. Preference is for, but not restricted to, projects in India.


Click here to see the Action to End Poverty, Hunger, and Disease 1 open project.


 The system will prompt you to enter your Kerberos (Level 1) password. Or, you can log in to MCubed with your Kerberos password and click "Find Projects" at the top of the page.


Action to End Poverty, Hunger, and Disease 1, the first card that appears on the page, is the open project. To express your interest, simply post your specific approach underneath the project on the MCubed website. You don't need to have identified your other two collaborators at this point.


The MCubed Diamond Program allows faculty to form cubes around topics that have been suggested and funded by donors. Funders set the parameters for each project, and work with MCubed to identify faculty experts to lead their project.  All cubes must include three faculty from at least two units, and once cubing occurs, $60,000 is immediately made available to start the project.


Want to know more?

Visit the MCubed Diamond Program website or contact  


U-M Neurologist, Jeffrey Kutcher, part of 2015 SXSW Interactive Festival 

U-M Neurologist, Jeffrey Kutcher, M.D., is hosting a tweetchat on sport-related concussions from the SXSW Interactive Festival.


Friday, March 13

2:00pm-3:00pm CT  


CLICK HERE to find Dr. Kutcher's Twitter page. 


Dr. Kutcher is the director of the U-M NeuroSport clinic and an associate professor in the Department of Neurology. He specializes in sports neurology and has worked with Olympic, professional, college, and amateur athletes. 

About Us

The Fast Forward Medical Innovation team at the University of Michigan Medical School works to accelerate innovation and commercialization of research at its inception, collaborate with commercial partners via novel models, and enhance medical education by fostering innovation and entrepreneurship at all levels. We help UMMS faculty and strategic partners collaborate, with the ultimate goal of accelerating research and technology to improve human health. To connect, email us or call 734-615-5060.

Office of Research
Fast Forward Medical Innovation is part of the Office of Research, where our mission is to foster an environment of innovation and efficiency that serves the U-M Medical School community and supports biomedical science from insight to impact.