UC CAI Medical Device Retreat
The UC Center for Accelerated Innovation (CAI) is a collaborative group comprised of five of the UC medical campuses. The mission of the group is to improve health care and address unmet medical needs through translation of biomedical discoveries at the universities. The collective applies business and product development practices from industry to advance promising technologies toward commercialization. The focus of the Medical Device Retreat, moderated by UCI Professor and CAI Site Leader, Elliot Botvinick, was to educate biomedical researchers on the essentials of starting a business and building intellectual property. The purpose of this training was to give researchers the foundational understanding of developing products and starting a business, for which they could apply elements into their research project pipelines, as well as help strengthen their grant proposals.
Michael Boiron and Bill Schaal of Rutan & Tucker discussed critical topics in corporate and IP law all entrepreneurs need to know. Boiron, a corporate attorney, discussed the logistics of forming a company and raising capital. Schaal, a patent attorney and partner at the firm, shared important information with the new inventors in attendance on how to best handle and protect their intellectual property.
The retreat’s keynote speaker, Raymond Cohen, has over 30 years of business and entrepreneurial experiences in medical technologies. He spoke of his experience as CEO of Vessix Vascular, a company that he, in just a two-year period, helped raise capital to develop. The company created a technology and pivoted to embrace an alternate clinical need, resulting in a successful exit with an acquisition by Boston Scientific. The primary takeaways from his experiences were:
1. “It’s better to be a fast follower”: Cohen urged researchers to identify and enter into an existing, large market, rather than forecasting a new market for their invention. He admits that while a number of inventions are innovative and categorically useful, without a sizeable market to enter into, there will be no investors to back the development, nor consumers that will ultimately utilize it.
2. “Great technology doesn’t invent itself”: A crucial step in great emerging medical technologies is the early input by physicians and designers. The upfront effort to consider how an invention will interface with the users (both the patient and medical professional) will serve to generate the best embodiment of the product, as well as help secure investor confidence. Cohen notes that physicians and nurses are often eager to take part in the invention process and contribute to useful, practical tools that improve patient healthcare.
3. “Commitment to the mission”: Clarity of purpose and focus is a must for new ventures. A company’s team requires a strong leadership that is taking them towards a clear, shared goal.
4. “Adjust the sails”: Drawing upon his many experiences, Cohen stressed that inventors and entrepreneurs must be prepared to pivot. All of his ventures, including Vessix, began and ended with different embodiments of a technology or targeted application. The common thread among his successes was the consistent reflection of what the results were telling them and what adjustments needed to be made.