A new challenge for health innovators


Vie Diagnostics, a 10-minute DNA-based point of care test for contagious diseases, won the Grand Prize at the 2015 UW Business Plan Competition.

March 2016 will mark the advent of the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship’s latest endeavor: the new University of Washington Health Innovation Challenge (HIC).

Healthcare has entered a period of unprecedented change. Throughout the world, innovators are developing creative solutions that increase the efficacy, efficiency, and accessibility of healthcare and transform the way we think about health. Many of these innovations are coming out of Washington state and the UW—both recognized leaders in health innovation. In the last year alone we’ve seen cutting-edge developments in genomic-based testing, telehealth, wearable devices, and other products and processes that will improve health and wellness worldwide.

“The healthcare ecosystem in Seattle is driving economic growth and innovations that affect our health and wellness,” says Connie Bourassa-Shaw, director of the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship at the UW Foster School of Business. “The players include the University of Washington, private companies, global nonprofits, healthcare incubators and investors, research institutes, and social entrepreneurs.  With the Health Innovation Challenge, we are building on the strengths of the UW and the Seattle community to provide a platform for students with a passion for health and healthcare to further develop their ideas and gain visibility for their innovations.”

The Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship is partnering with various colleges, schools, and departments across campus to promote the challenge to a broad group of students, from multiple disciplines. “The exciting thing about health innovation,” says Bourassa-Shaw, “is that it’s not limited to students and researchers in medicine.” Health innovation takes many forms—data-driven discovery, new billing solutions and business models, new ways to monitor health, improvements in efficient healthcare delivery, etc. Students in the HIC could literally come from any discipline.


2015 UW Business Plan Competition Second Place Prize Winner Empreva has developed a new method of birth control and STI prevention.

The HIC will be structured much like the Buerk Center’s well-regarded Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge. Interdisciplinary student teams will develop new solutions to existing problems—new approaches to helping people live healthier lives, new opportunities for care and treatment, new products or services—and prove that their solutions could be viable in the health/healthcare market. Teams will pitch their ideas and demonstrate their innovations to a room of judges in late March 2016 for a chance to win $10,000 in seed funding for their venture. The Buerk Center has no doubt that UW students will embrace this new challenge—six of the eleven prize winning teams in the 2015 UW Business Plan Competition were health-related.

The HIC will launch with a new 2-credit class, ENTRE 579/490 Health Innovation Practicum, in fall 2015. Taught by Sam Browd (UW Medicine, Children’s Hospital, serial entrepreneur) and Emer Dooley (Foster School of Business), the class will teach the mechanics of taking a promising healthcare solution from inception to commercialization. Topics to be covered include big problem areas in both domestic and global health, the biodesign process, the health innovation pipeline (including intellectual property, company formation, and healthcare markets), and the medical regulatory process.


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