RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – First Flight Venture Center of Research Triangle Park has been selected as one of eight accelerators in the nation by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to drive innovation in lifesaving medical technologies that solve challenging problems spanning modern health security threats and daily medical care.

It’s a second major federal award to First Flight, an earlier grant being used to launch an advanced manufacturing facility (Hangar 6) in RTP.

“Accelerators are part of a new business-friendly approach,” said Deputy Secretary for Health and Human Services Eric Hargan in a statement. “This approach will help startups and other businesses shape the next generation of lifesaving technology and transform health security. That innovation is crucial to protecting Americans and saving lives.”

Accelerators will scout out innovative technologies and products that can be developed to solve healthcare challenges that extend beyond traditional vaccine and drug development.

One of the first challenging problems is the need for earlier detection of infection, creating technology that can alert people when they have been infected with a bacteria or virus even before they begin to feel sick.

Nonprofit partner sought to work with investors

The second is the urgent need to solve sepsis, the body’s life-threatening response to infection or traumatic injury. Sepsis is a top cause of hospitalization in America, leads to 250,000 deaths annually and costs approximately $24 billion a year to treat. The number of sepsis cases could skyrocket after a bioterrorism attack or pandemic.

A new HHS unit called DRIVe – part of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) – will oversee the accelerator network and is recruiting a nonprofit partner that can work with private investors to fund innovative technologies and products to solve these and other systemic health security challenges. DRIVe also can invest in the projects using quick, streamlined funding methods.

To assist startups and other businesses in developing their technologies and products, accelerators will connect them with essential product development and business support services. This support could position innovative technologies and products for follow-on investment from the public or private sectors.

Time ripe to solve daunting problems

“At a time when artificial intelligence and personalized medicine are not just conceivable but attainable, the time is uniquely now to solve some of the most daunting, far-reaching health security problems,” said Rick Bright, BARDA director.

Bright added that with the accelerators, startups and other businesses have a new pathway to bring ideas together, nurture them with experienced partners, and direct them to BARDA’s experts who have demonstrated success in partnering with private industry to take new ideas to regulatory approval.

First Flight Venture Center received approximately $98,000 in a DRIVe grant to serve as an accelerator. Other accelerators are: MedTech Innovator (Los Angeles), New Orleans BioInnovation Center, SUNY Research Foundation (Stony Brook, NY), Texas Medical Center Innovation Institute (Houston), University City Science Center (Philadelphia), Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center (Lowell), and Life Science Washington Institute (Seattle).