UTMB Health’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship team knows the fields of health and science are always evolving, so the group is dedicated to creating and nurturing a culture of innovation and collaboration in and around UTMB by helping individuals navigate the complex network of resources available.

The team, which includes Dr. Daniel Jupiter, campus director; Dr. Massoud Motamedi, associate chief research officer; Melanie Connolly, special projects director; and Lanette Harris, administrative coordinator, helps students, staff, faculty, alumni and community members bring their ideas to life as viable solutions and, in some cases, products.

Through funding support from the Blackstone Launchpad, the group has been able to build upon the foundation of mentoring and training programs already present in this space through the work done through UTMB’s Clinical and Translational Science Award, a grant the institution has had since 2009.

Whether they’re interested in learning more about entrepreneurial thinking or have a marketable product, UTMB’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship team helps individuals take the next step forward.

Building entrepreneurial ideas and skills 

Creating opportunities to send students to events and competitions where they can win money or mentorship to further build out their entrepreneurial ideas and skills are just some of the ways the Blackstone Launchpad funding is being used at UTMB said Dr. Jupiter, adding that UTMB’s Innovation in Life Sciences Summer Camp is another way learners can get involved.  

“One of the things we're most proud of is that for two years in a row, we’ve run an innovation and entrepreneurship summer camp,” Dr. Jupiter said. “We have students from all over Texas, coming and spending a week with us to learn about the entrepreneurial mindset.” 

UTMB also partners with local organizations to offer events such as a yearly Hackathon with Vision Galveston designed to bring the community together to create a multidisciplinary problem-solving approach for issues impacting Galveston residents. 

“Partnerships with folks like Vision Galveston have helped us to see the problems that our community members are experiencing and connect our innovators with the right stakeholders to build solutions that we can actually drive forward,” Connolly said.

Innovators who have a commercializable idea or product and are looking for mentorship can use the Venture Mentoring Service for Southeast Texas which is housed at UTMB. The program supports entrepreneurs from M.D. Anderson, UT Health Houston and UTMB. Individuals can learn more or fill out a form to apply here. 

Overall, the goal of the Innovation & Entrepreneurship team is to empower individuals with the resources to improve lives and healthcare experiences through innovative solutions, Connolly said. 

Incubator space 

In collaboration with the Galveston Economic Development Partnership, UTMB is also celebrating the ribbon cutting of an incubator space in Galveston. Dr. Massoud Motamedi, a long-time leader of innovation efforts at UTMB, has been key in the development of this initiative, which aims to support early-stage life science companies and entrepreneurs, while fostering innovation and academic-industry collaboration in the field. 

“UTMB has a rich history of innovation and entrepreneurship, and this building is going to enable us to continue that, only faster and more broadly,” said Dr. Motamedi. “The culture of innovation and entrepreneurship and technology development is expanding at UTMB and this building is definitely a stepping stone toward that.” 

The UTMB Life Science Incubator encompasses 4,000 square feet of lab space and an additional 3,000 square feet dedicated to office, support, and educational facilities. It plays a pivotal role in translating research into commercial ventures. 

In a strategic collaboration with the Galveston Economic Development Partnership, UTMB has redeveloped the Customs House Incubator, leveraging a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration and $500,000 in matching funds from the university.

This collaborative effort aims to enhance the local and regional economies, create new jobs, and further develop the emerging technology ecosystem in Galveston and Galveston County. 

Dr. Vineet Gupta, currently serving as vice president of research in the Department of Medicine at Rush University in Chicago is slated to start on with UTMB in early December as vice president of Innovation and Technology Development and Transfer. When discussing the new incubator space, his excitement is palpable.  

“I believe the innovations that will come out of here [the incubator space] will not only help extend patient lives but give them a higher quality of life,” he said.  

Dr. Jochen Reiser, president of UTMB Health and CEO of the Health System, agrees.  

“The Life Science Incubator represents a new era of innovation and entrepreneurship for our community and beyond,” says Dr. Reiser, “This facility will empower researchers and entrepreneurs to collaborate in a unique ecosystem, bringing advances in life sciences closer to practice. The impact of this incubator will resonate far beyond our immediate community, ultimately benefitting society at large.”

Getting involved 

While the Innovation & Entrepreneurship team focuses on entrepreneurial thinking, not everyone has to want to be the next big CEO, Connolly said.  

“Looking at something that could be better and fixing it is still a form of developing your entrepreneurial mindset,” she said. “We have so many students being told that the health care system is broken, and now, thanks to the work we’re doing, they’re realizing they can play an active role in fixing it. So, our goal is to figure out how we make accessible to them the many resources that we have available.” 

Curious about creating sustainable solutions for long-term change? Learn more about UTMB’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship team and how to change health & medicine from the inside out. Explore entrepreneurial thinking concepts and what to do with a marketable product on UTMB’s website. For those who aren’t sure where to start, try UTMB’s Entrepreneurial & Innovation Resource Navigator tool. 

The above story was produced by Senior Multiplatform Journalist Summer El-Shahawy with Community Impact's Storytelling team with information solely provided by the local business as part of their "sponsored content" purchase through our advertising team.