Not all of Duke University’s innovations come from a laboratory. Some of the best ideas come from clinicians who see patients every day.
But a lot of those ideas get stuck. A doctor might not know who to turn to to develop it or test it. Sometimes a company with an idea wants input from a hospital but doesn’t know the best hospital contact. That disconnect has blocked many medical ideas over the years, said Duke’s Tom Kaminski. Still new to his role on Duke’s campus, Kaminski sees removing those obstacles as part of his job.
Kaminski is director of finance, planning & administration for the new Duke Institute for Health Innovation, or DIHI. The institute aims to incubate ideas from the Duke University Health System and also help companies develop and test and their own products. Whether a new idea comes from a Duke clinician or an outside company, DIHI will find a place for it.
“We can be matchmaker for whatever the technology is,” Kaminski said.
Planning a new institute
Planning for the institute has gone on for about two years though activity has accelerated in the last six months. Kaminski, whose business experience includes work with Accenture, LabCorp (NYSE:LH) and the Duke Clinical Research Institute, came on board four months ago. Right now he is DIHI’s only employee though he said that there are plans to hire staff in coming months.
While DIHI is still evolving, the concept for the institute was formed by studying efforts at other universities, including Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of California Los Angeles and the University of California San Francisco. Some of those university programs are more focused on design in health care, such as conceiving the patient room of the future or designing facilities in a way that optimizes work flow.
But Kaminski said that the Duke program could take a different approach. For example, Duke has several academics well known in behavioral sciences, such as Dan Ariely and Hayden Barry Bosworth. DIHI could take that expertise and apply it into new models of health care. DIHI could also bring in expertise from other parts of the university, such as engineering or business.
“Part of what we’re trying to do here is marry our own health system with the broader academic university,” Kaminski said.
DIHI will have a small core team that would work with ideas that come from Duke faculty and perhaps build out prototypes of new technologies. But taking those innovations into commercialization or even testing in real-world settings could require partners. To do that, DIHI will reach out to the Triangle’s entrepreneurial community.
Kaminski envisions having a network of developers, each with specific areas of expertise. These developers could work on part or all of a new technology, taking it to the point of proof-of-concept. From there, a small project might be easily integrated right into the Duke Health System. Bigger projects might be licensed to companies for commercialization or could be formed into new companies.
New companies from Duke innovation
One new company has already formed from a Duke innovation. Duke Health has had a program to improve patient adherence to their drug regimen. The patient reminders came from a call center. Duke, which also brought to the table its research on patient behavior, last year partnered with CellePathicRx, a company that uses a mobile platform to help keep patients on their drug regimen. The company that emerged from their partnership is called Improved Patient Outcomes.
“If we wanted to build that platform out of Duke, it would take five years,” Kaminski said.
Kaminski said that DIHI already has a backlog of ideas.
DIHI will have its coming out party in September. The institute is hosting its inaugural “Summit on Transformative Innovation in Health Care” on Sept. 9. The event, which is open to the public, will cover many health care issues that are part of national and international discussions. Among the keynote speakers for the daylong event are Bob Kocher, partner at venture capital firm Venrock; Mark McClellan, director of the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform at the Brookings Institution; and GlaxoSmithKline CEO Andrew Witty. The event is expected to draw about 400 stakeholders in the health care industry.
“This is our big launch to the external world,” Kaminski said.