When you think about entrepreneurs and breakthrough inventions, you might imagine someone tinkering with a gadget (perhaps a doohickey or thingamajig) in a garage. You might not, however, picture a Mayo researcher tinkering with peptides to fight hypertension, creating a tracking system for viruses, or fashioning a tool to make medical information easier to read for those with poor vision. But our friends at Mayo Clinic Ventures would like us to, and a recent article series in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal gets under the hood to explore why.
Mayo's efforts to encourage entrepreneurship and support startups is not only good for medicine, but as writer Katharine Grayson suggests, bringing new ideas to the marketplace also has the potential to “broadly impact Minnesota’s economy, with more Mayo business offspring growing up in (our own) backyard.” Jim Rogers, chair of Mayo Clinic Ventures, which commercializes Mayo Clinic technologies, tells Grayson that has meant a bit of a culture shift. And it’s required the assistance of efforts like the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator, which provides collaborative space for new companies, venture capital firms and entrepreneurs.
To illustrate the potential of entrepreneurial endeavors, Grayson profiles three startups in a series called “Made at Mayo.” The first article, “Mayo professor doubles as founder of text tech company,” chronicles the work of Randall Walker, M.D., Infectious Diseases, who started a company to create “software that converts text into an easier-to-read format.” He was “inspired by his own family history … to help people with low vision read easier,” Grayson writes. Walker Reading Technologies recently moved into the Business Accelerator space and is now working with Mayo “to research how his text-conversion technology, called Live Ink, could make electronic medical records easier to read and manage.”
In another piece, called “Oncology professor launches startup to track cells and viruses,” the Biz Journal explores the work of Mayo’s Kah Whye Peng, Ph.D., to turn “her scientific research into the foundation for a growing startup company.” Imanis Life Sciences “sells tools and services that create a GPS-like tracking system for cells and viruses.” That allows researchers to “use imaging technology to monitor therapies’ progress inside living animals.” And a piece called “Zumbro uses custom peptides to battle hypertension” documents the work of John Burnett, M.D., and Horng Chen, M.D. “Their latest venture, Zumbro Discovery Inc.,” Grayson writes, “uses peptides to treat high blood pressure in patients who haven’t benefited from traditional drugs.” Dr. Burnett says the company expects to begin clinical trials yet this year, expects to grow significantly, and its “goal is to be the next Amgen.”
Read more about the big plans for these ventures, as well as the business behind the business, in the Business Journal series. Then jump start our discussion by sharing your comments below.