Grants backs Western medical innovation efforts

Western’s efforts to support a brighter future for medical innovation in Canada got an exciting shot in the arm, thanks to a Burroughs Wellcome Fund grant.

The Medical Innovation Fellowship at Western immerses young scientists, engineers and clinicians in a program that serves as a platform for starting/licencing a commercially viable product or service. The fellowship’s fourth cohort starts its work this month – its numbers doubled to six this year because of the additional funding support.

The Burroughs Wellcome Fund focuses on career development of scientists, including on skills not always acquired ‘at the bench.’ Through the organization’s Career Guidance for Trainees program, it supports better approaches to preparing graduate students and postdoctoral fellows for successful careers in academic science and beyond.

The Medical Innovation Fellowship at Western applied to the fund last year, but was not chosen.

While the fund is usually a tool for American medical trainees, Burroughs Wellcome officials were impressed by Western proposal. “So we thought we’d apply again,” said Souzan Armstrong, Director of Business Development at WORLDiscoveries @ Western.

This year, Western became the first Canadian institution to be awarded funding.

In 2015, the Medical Innovation Fellowship at Western began in partnership with the University of Minnesota Innovative Fellows Program. Completed over the course of 10.5 months, the majority of fellowship is completed in Canada. Five weeks are spent working alongside Minnesota Innovation Fellows in an educational boot camp.

The Burroughs Wellcome grant of USD $48,000 is earmarked for expanding the Canadian portion of the fellowship – where participants learn theories of entrepreneurship and design thinking

Medical Innovation Fellowship at Western alumni have founded two health technology companies from their fellowship and founded two additional health-technology companies beyond the fellowship. They have collectively filed seven patents and raised more than $200,000 in capital.

The fellowship’s major funding partner is BrainsCAN and, through the Canada First Research Excellence Fund initiative, they have committed $3.5 million over seven years towards the program’s operational costs.