While North Carolina ranks second in research investment, it lags behind at 20th in translation, the practical application of knowledge gained from research. Eshelman Innovation is helping close the translation gap.
“The patient impact is only realized when research is extended to the point of developmental translation,” says Eshelman, Pharm.D., a pharmaceutical industry entrepreneur. “That’s what the institute is aiming for.”
By applying its innovation engine to future healthcare challenges and translating new ideas into products and services, Eshelman Innovation will continue to drive economic development in North Carolina and bring financial returns to the University.
The Eshelman Innovation team dives in and stands shoulder-to-shoulder with entrepreneurs, helping them establish proof of concept, infrastructure, project management and ultimately commercialization.
Take, for example, the opioid use disorder crisis, which Eshelman Innovation is addressing on both the digital health and therapeutics fronts.
Instead of throwing money at the problem from a distance, Eshelman Innovation’s Venture Studio team, along with venture studio partner High Alpha, traveled to rural Western North Carolina, where the crisis is acute. There, they found a local partner (the Mountain Area Health Education Center) and started listening and asking questions and — inspired by the READDI lesson — listening some more to get to the heart of a practical solution.
“We listened to community members. We brought in addiction specialists working on the front lines of the crisis,” says Bob Dieterle, managing director of the Venture Studio. Firsthand knowledge and insights from these locals helped the Eshelman Innovation team rapidly develop Goldie, a digital health platform for first responders.
The name refers to the so-called “golden window” of 24-to-72 hours after an opioid overdose, when intervention can significantly improve outcomes. Goldie helps personnel in the field track patients and encounters, capture signed consent forms, apply clinical protocols, coordinate with social service organizations and more.
Eshelman Innovation recently announced that Goldie will pilot the platform in rural Carteret County in eastern North Carolina.
“If this technology can scale up, it could completely change the trajectory of the opioid crisis in North Carolina,” Dieterle says.
Meanwhile, Eshelman Innovation’s Therapeutics Accelerator is supporting a portfolio of research into opioid alternatives to pain treatment. One promising approach is developing compounds that can silence neurons to eliminate the unpleasantness of any painful injury or disease.
What differentiates this research from other academic research is the commercialization support the institute provides faculty—from market analysis to venture capital contacts. Instead of hoping academic research might translate into a beneficial product or service by happy accident, Eshelman Innovation brings intentionality and translational expertise to greatly improve the odds of success.
“I get to be at the interface of bringing information to faculty and asking not just ‘What do you have in the way of research?’ but also ‘What can you build and how do you build it with commercialization in mind?” says Sumitra Pati, Ph.D., Commercial Strategy Director.
“Faculty are excited about creating new knowledge, new data, new compounds and new approaches to improve human health, but they aren’t necessarily trained in drug development and entrepreneurship,” says Eshelman School of Pharmacy Dean Angela Kashuba, Pharm.D. “Eshelman Innovation is working for the faculty member, for the project, for the people of North Carolina to get those innovations out of the University for maximum impact.”
Helping others is Eshelman Innovation’s reason for being, Bamforth says. “We’re about, ‘Let’s help you take this novel science and let’s get it off the campus and let’s try and create new products, create new companies that can drive the innovation to its end goal of impacting patients.”
Learn more about the exciting things happening at Eshelman Innovation by exploring the new website. Look for more stories in the coming weeks and months about Eshelman Innovation news and projects.