August 22, 2018

Pitch Perfect: Entrepreneurship Training ‘fastPace’ Quickly Hits Stride

A new entrepreneurship course for UAMS researchers arrived at just the right time for Marie Burdine, Ph.D., and her lab in the Division of Surgical Research.

The lab is pursuing two patents through BioVentures LLC at UAMS, and there may be more on the way.

Burdine learned about the TRI-supported training – fastPace – in an email from UAMS’ Nancy Gray, Ph.D., president of BioVentures and a professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology. Gray, who has led TRI-supported entrepreneurship boot camps since 2016, taught the fastPace program for the first time this spring.

Marie Burdine, Ph.D.

Marie Burdine, Ph.D.

“I really liked the concept and thought it could help us,” said Burdine, assistant professor in the College of Medicine Department of Surgery. “We have a couple of other ideas in the lab, and we knew that we needed help in learning how to promote these inventions and how to get funding for them.”

The surgical research lab, located at the Arkansas Children’s Research Institute, has a patent in the works for its most developed discovery, an immune-response therapy for transplant patients. It also recently filed an invention disclosure for another possible patent on a nanoparticle that will be tested as a new therapy for Clostridium difficile (C diff). The nanoparticle idea came from Lyle Burdine, M.D., Ph.D., a transplant surgeon and member of the surgical research team. He is also Marie’s husband.

Key Lessons

Lyle and Marie were among the 28 participants on 14 UAMS fastPace research teams. The four-week course, Marie said, offered key lessons in starting the patent process and how to present to potential investors.

“The fastPace program was great,” she said. “When I first started, my presentation had a lot of details that weren’t really necessary. I think by the end of the project I had learned how to really make it concise and do a nice pitch.”

The idea for the C diff nanoparticle stems from Lyle’s work as a doctoral student on a different nanoparticle designed to pull cholera from cells. Because C diff is responsible for most cases of antibiotic-associated diarrhea in surgical patients, Lyle wanted to explore the nanoparticle idea as an alternative to antibiotics. After presenting the idea at a conference at the California Institute of Technology, a Virginia Tech researcher offered to produce the nanoparticle.

A collaboration with Virginia Tech was established last year and researchers there are now close to completing work on the nanoparticle. Marie said her lab is prepared to immediately start testing the nanoparticle in vitro and in vivo in mice.

“Once we get it in our hands and have some preliminary data, that’s when we’ll really start to focus on getting funding for that project,” she said.

The invention disclosure, which will determine if the nanoparticle idea merits a patent application, has been filed with BioVentures and ACRI.

TRI Support

TRI provided fastPace training support for Gray, Nancy Rusch, Ph.D., a professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, and Curtis Lowery, M.D., chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The three traveled to the University of Michigan, where fastPace was developed, to become certified trainers.

Gray said the course enabled participants to evaluate whether their novel ideas were salable as they learned about the commercialization process.

“FastPace represents an important new tool for translational research,” Gray said. “Having this available for our researchers will help generate more patentable ideas, which benefits researchers, the public and UAMS.”

This article originally appeared in the UAMS Translational Research Institute newsletter, the TRIbune.