December 2015

Study reveals non-invasive warning sign of kidney disease progression

Researchers find genetic mechanism that influences effectiveness of cancer immunotherapy

Genetic mutations differ within a single tumor

Researchers use ovarian follicles to preserve fertility

U-M Medical School

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Dear Colleagues,
View Our Holiday Video  
It's been a very productive year for the Fast Forward Medical Innovation team as we continue to help biomedical innovators across the University of Michigan campus accelerate their discoveries onto viable commercialization paths with the ultimate goal of getting into the marketplace where they can positively impact human health.
This year, our uniquely integrated core initiatives and programs are showing amazing gains, and we invite you to CLICK HERE to browse our fiscal year 2015 metrics. Highlights include:
* 166 invention reports this year (compared to 133 last year), due in part to the huge momentum created by FFMI's early and mid-stage funding programs - Kickstart and MTRAC - the latter a partnership with U-M Tech Transfer. These two programs currently support over 50 funded projects, with more in the innovation pipeline. We expect that many of them will see successful follow-on funding with industry and other external partners, like the novel atrial fibrillation mapping technology from Omer Berenfeld and Hakan Oral that just inked an agreement with a major medical device company for $2.3 million, or Dan Orringer's recent collaboration with Invenio Imaging on new brain imaging technology.
* The Medical School received $63.7 million in industry funding this year - 14% of all research funding, and a 36% increase from three years ago. In particular, our investigators engaged in translational research are garnering notice from potential industry partners, with facilitation from our Business Development team, resulting in substantive collaborations with companies like Proctor & Gamble and Novo Nordisk.
* FFMI's Commercialization Education program, in collaboration with groups like the College of Engineering's Center for Entrepreneurship, continues to develop groundbreaking programs that serve the entire spectrum of biomedical innovators - from faculty researchers to house staff, to medical and graduate students. Over 1,000 have participated in our education and training programs, and the U-M Medical School is quickly becoming a benchmark for other institutions. Project teams from as far away as the University of Montana have joined us, and Georgia Tech and Grand Valley State recently sent observers to our Early Tech Development course.
These and other success stories would not have been possible without the continued backing of organizations like the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the William Davidson Foundation, and our newest supporter, entrepreneur and U-M alumna Mary Petrovich. 2016 promises to be even more fruitful as we continue to push the innovation envelope, finding new ways to serve our colleagues and external partners, with the ultimate goal of impacting patient care. We invite you to CLICK HERE to view our holiday greeting, and wish you and your families the best of holidays.
Best regards,


Kevin Ward, M.D.            Connie Chang, M.B.A.         
Executive Director           Managing Director 

Fast Forward GI Innovation Fund Launches - RFPs Due January 15 

Three-year program targets discovery and development of future tech to help GI patients  

FFMI recently kicked off its Fast Forward Gastrointestinal (GI) Innovation Fund at an event on Friday, November 20. The interactive format allowed participants to mingle and share ideas, while also learning about this exciting funding opportunity.   

The Fast Forward Gastrointestinal (GI) Innovation Fund is 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 is available via UMMS Competition Space, with a January 15, 2016 submission deadline.

There will be two tiers of funding available. Tier I awards will be in the range of $25-$50K 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 $75-100K 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).

CLICK HERE for the Tier I Award RFP
CLICK HERE for the Tier II Award RFP

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."  

Taking the Guesswork Out of Brain Surgery   

Innovative microscopic technology and a new imaging device take aim at brain tumors
During brain tumor surgery, precision is key. But brain tumor tissue can be hard to distinguish from normal brain tissue during surgery, and neurosurgeons often must guess where the edges of the tumor are. Removing healthy tissue can cause neurologic deficits, while leaving tumor behind can allow cancer to spread and treatment to fail.
University of Michigan researcher Dan Orringer, M.D., has developed the first portable Stimulated Raman Scattering (SRS) microscope in collaboration with industry partner Invenio Imaging, Inc., and is now testing it on patients at the U-M Health System.
Much like MRI, SRS microscopy relies on intrinsic chemical properties of biological tissue images without the need for removing or processing tissue. However, unlike MRI, SRS microscopy can rapidly generate high-resolution tissue images on a microscopic level where there is a clear difference between tumor and normal brain, eliminating the need for dye to visualize tissue architecture.
"The MTRAC funding we received was central to the creation of the first clinical SRS microscope, which has now been used in our operating room to image tissue from over 100 cancer patients," says Dr. Orringer. "We're able to visualize tumor that otherwise would be invisible to the surgeon in the operating room."
The "Next Big Thing" in Tissue Imaging
Orringer's next step with Invenio Imaging is to create an imaging device that would sit close to the operating table. This new laser-based microscopic technology may help surgeons see the difference between tumor tissue and normal brain in real-time. Surgeons could readily insert a fresh tissue sample into the device, which would generate microscopic images on the spot to determine if the tumor has been excised, or if more tissue needs to be removed.
To get this same information, surgeons currently have to wait a half hour or more for tissue to be frozen, sectioned, stained, and interpreted by expert pathologists trained to spot the difference between cancer cells and normal brain cells.
"For years, my research group has been working on translating coherent Raman scattering microscopy into a clinical tool to improve the precision of brain tumor surgery," says Orringer. "MTRAC support allowed us to confirm that there is the potential to revolutionize the way surgeons can plan and execute cancer operations. Additionally, MTRAC opened the door to more than $3 million in NIH grant money and more than $1 million in private investments that will be used to propel the technology through regulatory approvals and into hospitals across the world. "
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 SRS microscopy project is just one of 11 projects in the 2014 cohort funded by MTRAC. The 2015 MTRAC cohort also awarded 11 teams with early commercialization development funding.

Congratulations Latest Kickstart Awardees!  

Two awards for developing early proof of concept 

FFMI recently announced two new awardees for its Kickstart early-stage funding program.

Kickstart Awards, made possible by the U-M Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization for Life Sciences Program (MTRAC), enable Medical School research faculty to develop proof of concept for innovative technologies. This award is aimed to enhance the commercial potential of a technology to the point of translation and possible inclusion in MTRAC or other research funding programs.

The new Kickstart teams include:

Jess Theone, M.D. - Demonstration of delivery of human cystinosin into animal cornea via microvesicles

- Develop a novel way to treat cystinosis, an orphan disease, which would reduce the need for hourly administration of eye drops to daily or weekly. This technology also has the potential to systemically deliver transmembrane proteins, which would enable the treatment of many other heritable diseases.

Robert Simpson, Ph.D. and Peter Higgins, M.D., Ph.D. -  CARD-024 for Intestinal Fibrosis
 - Animal testing of a novel, small-molecule therapeutic for Crohn's disease which works by reducing inflammation and preventing the formation of scar tissue in the gut. This will reduce the need for surgery to remove bowel that is blocked. 

Kickstart awards are granted on a rolling basis. CLICK HERE to learn more. 

FFMI and GlaxoSmithKline Host Event for the Discovery Partnerships with Academia Program  

Program finalists present their research for funding opportunity 

Last week, FFMI hosted an event in collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) for the GSK Discovery Partnerships with Academia (DPAc) program. This unique program brings together the insight and creativity of the academic world with the drug discovery expertise of GSK to establish truly integrated partnerships that can translate innovative research into medicines that benefit patients.    


U-M investigators submitted proposals for funding consideration in October, and last week's event gave finalists the opportunity to present their projects for more in-depth discussion and review. The finalists include:
Jun Hee Lee, Ph.D.
Uhn-Soo Cho, Ph.D.
Peter Arvan, M.D., Ph.D.
Peter Higgins, M.D., Ph.D.
Mukesh Nyati, Ph.D.
Ted Lawrence, M.D., Ph.D.
Yali Dou, Ph.D.
Bruce Richardson, M.D., Ph.D.
Jeffrey Ruth, Ph.D.
David Fox, M.D.
Nick Donato, B.Sc., Ph.D.
Matt Young, Ph.D.  

"Tips on Partnering from the Industry Playbook" Helps Attendees Create A Commercialization Game Plan   

Discussion offers "tips and tricks" to help navigate the commercialization pathway 

Last week, FFMI and BioArbor hosted Tips on Partnering from the Industry Playbook, a panel discussion where commercialization experts and entrepreneurial coaches gave advice and real-life examples on the best ways to attract industry.


Mike Bishop from GlaxoSmithKline, Bill Brinkerhoff from ONL Therapeutics, and Matt Alves from Stryker shared their stories and answered questions about their experiences with the benefits and challenges of engaging industry.   


Attendees got a chance to network before and after the event, and ask questions to help guide their individual commercialization plans. 


Startup With U-M Technology Goes Public 

Kura Oncology, Inc., a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company that develops therapies for cancer patients, is now trading on the NASDAQ after an initial public offering.


One of the company's programs is based on work conducted by U-M faculty Jolanta Grembecka, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Pathology, and Tomasz Cierpicki, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Pathology and Biophysics. Grembecka and Cierpicki designed a series of menin-MLL inhibitors, the first small molecule compounds targeting the protein interaction responsible for an acute form of leukemia. The U-M program was licensed to California-based Kura Oncology this year.  


CLICK HERE to read the full article.   


Study Reveals Non-Invasive Warning Sign of Kidney Disease  

A U-M team led by nephrologist Matthias Kretzler, M.D., renal systems biologist Wenjun Ju, Ph.D., M.S., and bioinformatician Viji Nair, M.S., has discovered a simple test to identify patients at risk for chronic kidney disease by measuring a specific molecule in a routine urine sample. This molecule, a protein called epidermal growth factor, indicates whether the patient is at risk of end-stage kidney disease.  


CLICK HERE to read the full article.  


Register Today for the Massey Foundation TBI Grand Challenge   

$500K available for breakthroughs around traumatic brain injuries
The Michigan Center for Integrative Research in Critical Care (MCIRCC) will host its second Grand Challenge, thanks to a generous gift from the Joyce and Don Massey Family Foundation.
About the Grand Challenge 
The Grand Challenge targets big problems and rewards bold solutions by supporting high-impact proposals for milestone-driven research over 12-months.
In 2016, The Massey Family Foundation Critical Care Grand Challenge will fund integrated science teams that can develop innovative solutions to improve outcomes after severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) diagnosis. Up to $500,000 will be available to fund diagnostic, device, therapeutic or health information technology solutions.
MCIRCC will partner with the Department of Defense who will assist in reviewing and selecting proposals for funding, and will provide oversight to funded projects.
About the Two-Day Event 
The program starts with an in-depth TBI State of the Art Symposium on Jan 22, followed by the release of a Request for Proposals on January 23. There will be a networking lunch and mixer on Day 1, allowing you to mingle with colleagues from across campus to discuss research opportunities.

CLICK HERE to see the Grand Challenge Event Brief and Agenda.
Who Can Apply? 
The Grand Challenge: TBI is open to all U-M faculty and staff. We encourage researchers from all disciplines to apply in collaboration with a U-M physician who can provide a clinical perspective on the problem.
To be considered for funding, you must attend the two-day event. CLICK HERE to register.
If you have any questions, please contact Bria Wiltshire at  

Upcoming Collaborative Opportunities at the College of Engineering  

Coulter and the BME seeking 2016 project submissions 

U-M Coulter Program 
Have a technical innovation idea that could improve patient care? The U-M Coulter Translational Research Partnership Program is pleased to announce the 2016 Call for Proposals.

The deadline for proposal submission is Friday, January 15th, by 5:00 PM.

The U-M Coulter Program is funded through proceeds of an endowment from the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation and supports collaborative translational research projects that involve co-investigators from any engineering department and a clinical department.  

The goal of this program is to accelerate the development and commercialization of new medical devices, diagnostics, and other biomedical products that address unmet clinical needs and lead to improvements in health care.

Projects are supported and mentored by a team of industry experienced experts who proactively work to accelerate Coulter Program objectives of developing new product concepts to the point of partnering with industry or forming start-up companies with follow-on funding to commercialize new products envisioned from translational research efforts. Funding does not require cost-sharing of salaries.

Distinctive aspects of the Coulter Program include business assessment work that dovetails with technical milestones for each project.

Specific benefits to each project include:
   * Business development support
   * Intellectual Property advice
   * Regulatory guidance
   * Follow-on funding guidance
   * Mentorship from Oversight Committee
   * The C3i training program
To learn more, visit the Coulter Program website or download the Proposal Application & Instructions.
For questions, please contact Thomas Marten, Coulter Program Director, at or (734)647-1680. 

U-M Biomedical Engineering Department 
The U-M Biomedical Engineering Department seeks faculty, physicians, and clinicians who have ideas for medical devices to sponsor student team design projects for Winter Term 2016. 

Project sponsors mentor these BME student teams through the process of problem identification, brainstorming, detailed design, prototype building, and testing. Projects should be defined to the extent that the problem is known and the sponsor has some idea of device requirements, but should also be open-ended enough to allow students to explore possible innovative solutions. 

Level of sponsor involvement is as follows:
* Complete a project information form, which includes a description of the problem, project goals, deliverables, etc.
* Facilitate contacts and opportunities for students to better understand the problem within the clinical setting, as needed
* Meet occasionally with the team to discuss progress and provide input (~ every 2-3 weeks)
* Attend the team's presentations in early December and mid-April

For more information, check out our website.

The submission deadline for projects is Friday, Dec. 18, 2015.

For more information, please contact Rachael Schmedlen at 763-0575 or via email at for more information.  

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.