November 2015




Doctors prescribe new apps to manage medical conditions

Study shows cell-boosting drug helps bypass faulty signaling in muscular dystrophy

Cancer cells hijack glucose, alter immune cells

Laser-based imaging tool could increase accuracy

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Two Companies Developed at U-M Chosen as Finalists at Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition 

GENOMENON and FlexDex Surgical land in top 10 at international business competition 

GENOMENON and FlexDex Surgical, two companies started at the University of Michigan, were top-10 finalists in the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition (AMIC) on November 4 and 5, in Detroit. AMIC is an international business competition that connects entrepreneurial companies with national and international investors.

GENOMENON took second place in the competition. The company makes software that automates genomic sequencing interpretation.

"GENOMENON was part of the 2014 MTRAC cohort," says Bradly Martin, Ph,D., FFMI Commercialization Program Director. "We're excited to hear of their recent accomplishment and are proud to have been part of their successful product launch."

FlexDex Surgical, a U-M spinout, produced the Infinity Needle Driver, a laparascopic instrument and accompanying software platform that enhances the capabilities of minimally-invasive surgical tools

Finalists were chosen from 54 semi-finalists. CLICK HERE to read the article.

MTRAC Team Secures
Medtronic Grant   

Omer Berenfeld, Ph.D. and Hakan Oral, M.D., a project team from the 2014 MTRAC cohort, recently secured a grant, together with Jose Jalife, M.D., for more than $2.38M from Medtronic to continue work on their Mapping Atrial Fibrillation project.
"We greatly appreciate all the effort and help provided by the MTRAC team," says Dr. Berenfeld. "This accomplishment would not have been possible without the support of the MTRAC program."
Congratulations, Drs. Berenfeld, Oral, and Jalife!

Introducing Fast Forward GI Innovation Fund 

Three-year program targets discovery and development of future technologies to help patients suffering from gastrointestinal (GI) disease 

FFMI recently announced the formation of the Fast Forward Gastrointestinal (GI) Innovation Fund, a three-year, $500,000+ fund supported by a donation from entrepreneur alumna Mary Petrovich and matched by the Medical School's Department of Internal Medicine and its Division of Gastroenterology as well as the College of Engineering, where Ms. Petrovich received her undergraduate degree.

The Fund will support early-stage research that may have future impact on GI patients. It will be used for key research commercialization activities such as those related to technology validation and establishing proof-of-concept, including pilot funding support for preliminary studies or development activities that will lead to broader GI product applications. Importantly the fund seeks to engage interdisciplinary teams of researchers that leverage ideas and technologies across medicine, engineering, public health and other key units engaged in biomedical research.

A Request for Proposals for the Fund will be released in early December via UMMS Competition Space, with an anticipated submission deadline of mid January. There will be two tiers of funding available. Tier I awards will be in the range of $10-$25K and fund projects that address a discrete milestone that is critical to the advancement of research to the point of product development. Tier II awards will be $50-75K and fund projects with specific milestones for proof-of-concept and later-stage translational studies (ranges are estimates and actual funding levels will be project-specific).

The FFMI team is in the process of finalizing the fund details and assembling an Advisory Board of faculty, industry, and commercialization experts who will review proposals and provide mentorship for the funded teams. The fund and approach is modeled after FFMI's highly successful Kickstart and MTRAC programs.

"The goal of the Fast Forward GI Innovation Fund is to accelerate innovative research in the important field of gastroenterology here at the U-M," notes Kevin Ward, M.D., FFMI Executive Director. "Thanks to this extremely generous donation from Mary Petrovich, we're taking a significant step toward producing the next generation of research and technology development that will revolutionize the care of GI patients."

Interested in learning more about the GI Innovation Fund? Go to the website or join the FFMI team for a kickoff event:

Fast Forward GI Innovation Fund Kickoff
Friday, November 20
Seminar Rooms, BSRB


Mobile Technologies Offer New Approaches to Disease Management 

The U-M Breast Cancer Ally is the first in a suite of clinical companion apps that provide patient navigation, disease and institute-specific education, and disease management tools  

Treating cancer is becoming more complicated and multidisciplinary in nature, and patients are being asked to absorb an overwhelming amount of information and make complex decisions regarding their treatment.
While mobile technologies are often used to augment the patient experience, most medical apps are primarily informational or used for personal informatics (tracking weight loss, exercise, sleep) rather than disease management and patient care. As the technology and capabilities of mobile and linked wearable devices improve, so does the potential to incorporate these functions into disease-specific management practices.
Michael Sabel, M.D., has developed the University of Michigan Breast Cancer Ally clinical companion app-a disease-specific technology that provides the tools and information needed to navigate the multiple facets of medical care. Rather than overwhelming the user with material, information and tools are delivered based on the appropriate stage of treatment, a "just-in-time" approach to information delivery.
"Our first in a potential suite of apps is the University of Michigan Breast Cancer Ally," says Dr. Sabel. "This app facilitates a patient's journey through every aspect of the multidisciplinary management of breast cancer and uses patient-reported outcomes to deliver specific education. The app is designed so that components can be added, deleted, or modified, making it easy to update the educational materials as well as customize them for individual institutions. Our approach uses mobile technologies to encourage communication between the patient and the physician, enhancing the patient-physician relationship rather than replacing it."
The U-M Breast Cancer Ally has several unique and novel features including:
  • "Just-in-time" patient education material and interactive decision aids delivered directly to the patient at the appropriate stage of treatment
  • A "SMART homescreen" that automatically updates as the patient progresses through the various stages of treatment
  • Notifications for preoperative and postoperative directions, medications, appointments, and other stage-specific instructions
  • Tools to remind and assist in drain management, post-surgical exercises, and side effects management
  • Interactive chemotherapy toxicity tracker that directs patients to information on side effect management and provides direction on when to contact their health care provider
  • Patient utilization metrics and patient outcomes reported back to the treating physicians
  • Treatment summaries that can be shared with primary care physicians and other health care providers
  • Institution-specific information on the health care team, directions, phone and contact information, parking information, and links to other services
  • Treatment calendar with a note-taking function that includes frequently asked questions and other useful management tools
"MTRAC guidance has been extremely helpful in developing the app and moving through the commercialization process to make this technology available to the public," says Dr. Sabel. "The funding and support are essential as we work to create a suite of apps that cover a range of complex medical problems."
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. The University of Michigan Breast Cancer Ally clinical companion app is just one of 11 projects in the 2015 cohort funded by MTRAC. In 2014, the program funded 11 teams for early commercialization development.

FFMI "Office Hours" Is Making the Rounds to Family Medicine  

Quick, focused consultations will help focus your research

As part of the ongoing efforts to nurture a culture of innovation for U-M Medical School faculty at all levels of engagement, FFMI team members are holding "Office Hours."

Featuring 15-minute block scheduling and a convenient location within the select department, Office Hour appointments are considerably shorter than one of our Idea Consultation meetings and offer an extremely focused discussion with an FFMI commercialization expert. Faculty will come away from an appointment with a commercial assessment of their research and a suggested path of suitable resources here at the U-M, and beyond.

In September, the team held hours at Molecular and Integrative Physiology and saw eight faculty.

Family Medicine will be the next department to receive Office Hours on Tuesday, November 17, and Tuesday, December 1.

Contact Nick DeHaan at to schedule an appointment in advance, or with any questions.

Introducing Two New FFMI
Team Members!

Please join us in welcoming Mike Ranella and Angela Abbatiello to the FFMI team!  


Mike is the new Associate Director for Business Development and comes to us from the Frankel CVC, where he was the administrative lead for three cardiovascular specialty multidisciplinary programs, the cardiovascular health improvement project, and the key point of contact for industry sponsors engaged with the CVC on clinical trials.


Angela Abbatiello joins our team as the new
Senior Administrative Assistant. She previously worked as Executive Director of Northwest Ohio Community Shares, an organization that generates essential operating funds for Toledo nonprofits. As part of FFMI, Angela will be working closely with the MTRAC and Kickstart programs.    


Welcome Mike and Angela! 


MCubed 2.0 Funds 50 Cubes 

Second MCubed cycle uses lottery system to select initial participants 

MCubed 2.0, the University of Michigan's one-of-a-kind funding program designed to spark innovative research without traditional peer review, received an impressive 140 interdisciplinary faculty trios requesting cubes. The 50 initial cubes  were selected through a lottery and distributed last week.

CLICK HERE to learn more. 

Tips on Partnering from the
Industry Playbook   

When it comes to developing new therapies, medical devices, and health technologies, engaging industry is often a vital part of the commercialization pathway.
Academic researchers often look for co-development partnerships with companies, while start-ups seek acquisition. But what does it take to attract industry, and when is it appropriate to do so? What are the benefits and challenges of these interactions? How do you know when to run down the middle, or when to throw long?
You're invited to join us as Fast Forward Medical Innovation and BioArbor host a panel of commercialization experts and entrepreneurial coaches discussing the "playbook" for working with industry, and you'll learn more about who's on your commercialization team here at U-M.
Thursday, December 3
G063-64, NCRC Bldg 10
Networking reception immediately following
Guest Experts:
Mike Bishop, GlaxoSmithKline
Bill Brinkerhoff, ONL Therapeutics
Brad Martin, FFMI Commercialization Program Director
Plus! Learn more about GlaxoSmithKline's Discovery Partnerships with Academia

Four U-M Faculty Elected to Prestigious National Academy
of Medicine 

University of Michigan experts in cancer biology, emergency heart care, bone biology, and chronic disease care are among the new members of the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) of the National Academies, one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine. The National Academy of Medicine was formerly known as the Institute of Medicine.
Kathleen Cho, M.D., Laurie McCauley, D.D.S., Ph.D., Robert Neumar, M.D., Ph.D., and Marita Titler, Ph.D., RN, FAAN (pictured above in alphabetical order from left to right), were elected to the NAM in recognition of their major contributions to the advancement of the medical sciences, health care, and public health.
With their election, the U-M now has 54 past and present members of the NAM on faculty. A list of living NAM members on the U-M faculty is available here.
CLICK HERE to read the full announcement, which includes background information on each of the U-M experts.

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.