A summer fellowship well spent: taking Epo receptor testing to market

Summer fellowsThis past summer, CIE funded five Tech Commercialization Fellowships for graduate students in entrepreneurship. For 10 weeks each Fellow works with a University of Washington inventor and TechTransfer manager to do a deep dive into the feasibility of commercializing specific research. The qualifications to be a Fellow are rigorous—you have to have a relevant background, be highly analytical, and fearless in asking questions, talking with potential customers, and networking your way to industry experts. 

Look at the diagnostics test on Epo receptors, for example. Tony Blau, UW professor of hematology and medicine, is investigating the current use of Epo ($12 billion in sales in 2006) to treat anemia, a common side effect of cancer. Recent research has shown that Epo could actually have an adverse effect on cancer survival. Blau is working on a new test to measure Epo receptors to predict which patients are susceptible to the adverse effects.

Kirk Rorrer, MBA 2010, whose background includes degrees in biochemistry and pharmacology, applied for the Epo project because it was “a great opportunity to help determine the potential of a new pathway for cancer treatment.”

Blau’s reaction to having Rorrer work with him for the summer was equally positive. “Working with Kirk was both tremendously informative and a lot of fun,” he said. “Kirk’s extensive evaluation of our project as a potential business opportunity significantly enhanced my understanding of our challenges and opportunities.”

Other projects included transparent electrodes that are flexible and durable, broad-based diagnostic tests for Alzheimer’s and mad cow disease, a rapid clinical diagnostics test for identifying tuberculosis, and high-intensity ultrasound for nerve disorders. Funding for summer fellows is provided by the Washington Research Foundation, the Institute for Translational Heath Sciences, and the Coulter Foundation.

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