A new course offered in the Biomedical Enterprise master’s program in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences teaches students about scientific commercialization.
An aspiring surgeon, Jalen Alford (M.I.S. ’21) wants to add entrepreneur to his list of career goals.
In addition to practicing medicine, he hopes to one day become a business owner and angel investor. The training he received in one of his final classes in the Biomedical Enterprise master’s program in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences, the BMSC 6040 Capstone course, has provided him valuable tools to help navigate the business world. The course is designed to give students experience with the steps necessary to take a discovery or idea from concept to commercialization.
For his capstone project, the Newnan, Ga., native invented a hypothetical platform called The Helping Hand app to connect patients and home healthcare workers, and then developed a plan to bring it to the market.
“The purpose of the platform is to allow patients to request a helping hand when the provider is unable to make it to their shift because of a callout, being sick, etc.,” Alford said.
The app connects patients to workers, but it also helps workers find someone to cover for them in case of an emergency or if they need to take time off. In addition, RNs, LPNs and CNAs who are looking to earn extra money or gain more patient experience can enter their credentials and availability into the app.
After creating a profile, patients can look through the list of candidates to find someone who fits their needs. When their regular worker calls out, the patient can notify the system they’re in need of a worker, and the worker has 24 hours to respond and accept the request to cover the shift. The new worker is paid through The Helping Hand app.
“What I liked most about this course was the designed urgency of the course schedule,” Alford said. “It made me stay on top of things and keep my ideas fresh. I learned the scientific commercialization process is lengthy, entangled, purposeful and needed. The whole infrastructure of this process revolves around entrepreneurship, innovation, science and technology.”
Cynthia Nau Cornelissen, associate director of the Institute for Biomedical Sciences, partnered with Cliff Michaels, assistant vice president and director of the Office of Technology Transfer & Commercialization at Georgia State, and Jennifer Sherer, director of the university’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute, to design the course, identify content experts to serve as guest speakers and evaluate student presentations. Tshidi Tsibane, associate director of research education in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences, helped to direct this fall’s course.
During the first class, students conceptualized a novel idea for a product or device they would like to commercialize. They assessed the novelty of the idea or product, why the product is needed, if there are any similar products on the market and how their product is different or enhances what already exists.
Each week, a content expert was invited to the class as a guest speaker to deliver a lecture on the topic of the day, such as SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis, protecting intellectual property, early stage funding, mid/late-stage capital, pitching to investors, pre-clinical studies, human trials, Food and Drug Administration review and approval, and marketing, advertising and strategic partnerships. After the lectures, students introduced themselves and discussed their ideas, products or devices in the context of the lessons. The content experts provided feedback so students could improve their commercialization plans.
At the end of the course, students submitted a written plan describing all the steps in the commercialization process for their product or device and delivered a 15-minute presentation.
“We are so grateful to the content experts who gave so freely of their time and advice,” Cornelissen said. “They all offered their skills and knowledge during class and also as the students move out into the business world. This networking resource is invaluable to our IBMS students as they embark on their entrepreneurial careers.
“The students in this cohort all did a fabulous job with their projects, and I couldn’t be more proud of the growth, creativity and innovation that they displayed throughout the semester,” Cornelissen added. “I look forward to co-directing the course with Dr. Tsibane next fall.”
Above: Jalen Alford presents in his Scientific Commercialization Process class. Photo by Carolyn Richardson