Eastern Washington State, known for its’ rural and self-reliant culture, shares its biggest city of Spokane with pride. Spokane was settled by tough pioneers, traders and fur trappers, and then moved into heavy resource extraction industries (timber, mining, etc.) later on, but has become dynamic and cosmopolitan in its own ways over the years. In fact, the city was the center of the first environmentally themed World’s Fair in 1974—and just recently, the attractive city surrounded by natural beauty became the epicenter for the Washington State University Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine. Founded recently in 2015, the public medical school was one of three medical schools in the state of Washington by its 2017 inaugural class. It has very quickly differentiated itself not only as a fine medical school but also as a nexus of entrepreneurial activity.
Early Track Record: $62m & Counting
In just a few years since its inception, Washington State University Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine (WSU) has hauled in more than $62 million in grants and contracts for researchers and investigators collecting data in labs and clinics, analyzing data on computers, and developing new devices and algorithms. A real innovative and entrepreneurial environment is flowering in eastern Washington, and it’s evidenced by the very real breakthroughs and deal making going on.
From Lab to Start up
Scientists are creating a culture there where it is not only acceptable but also embraced for commercialization of new health care products and services. Most recently, John Tomkowiak, founding dean of the school, noted, “From the very beginning, the College of Medicine was touted as having a strong potential for economic benefit due to its attractiveness to scientists and spin-off companies.” The dean continued, “Today, our scientists are not only producing ground-breaking studies, they are developing innovative ideas and launching and partnering with businesses that will benefit communities here and around the world.” Spokane already is an urban nexus, surrounded by some of the most rural and wild areas in the lower 48 states, and one feels the up-and-coming entrepreneurial energy of WSU’s College of Medicine, writes Christina VerHeul, Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine.
New partnerships and companies form based on WSU researcher projects—such as Dr. Sterling McPherson, associate professor and assistant dean for research and his partnership with Austin-based Ringful Health, a digital health start up to develop tools designed to asses and combat the impacts of substance abuse. They have co-developed a tool that will be available nationwide in 2020. Moreover, this project led to a new venture called Managed Health Connections (MHC), which is working on ways to reduce alcohol dependency.
Recently, Dr. Georgina Lynch, assistant professor and former WSU bioengineering and entrepreneurial studies student, Lars Neuenschwander, launched Appiture Biotechnologies, which develops handheld technology to quickly, noninvasively and objectively screen for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children. Appiture was born out of WSU research conducted by Dr. Lynch. Pillsy, a Seattle-based medication adherence technology has inked a partnership with WSU’s Dr. Sterling McPherson to research and develop the technology specifically for buprenorphine adherence in patients who are being treated for addiction to opioids. WSU and the venture have agreed to a three-year study with a 30 patient pilot—they plan on expanding to a larger clinical trial to analyze optimization and technology usefulness among patients.
Just the Beginning
Of course, medical research isn’t an overnight success type of business. The research efforts ongoing may not yield economic impact for some years. However, the entrepreneurial spirit of WSU researchers generates heightened levels of excitement and generates momentum for more ventures—this author was just in Spokane for other business and could sense the growing dynamism in downtown Spokane, for example. As John Roll, Vice President of Research, noted, “This is really just the beginning of what we anticipate will be many national success stories for how research translates into economic growth.”
Call to Action: Interested in connecting with WSU Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine? You may reach out here.