Corp. has set aside $5 million in an investment fund to be managed by
TechColumbus exclusively for helping its staff and physicians bring medical
devices and other inventions to market.
Central Ohio’s largest hospital system is using the fund as
a recruitment and retention tool as well as to speed its access to tools to
improve patient care, officials said.
“You don’t want all that creative energy moving to other
parts of the country,” said Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, chief medical officer.
Significantly, the inventors keep all of their intellectual
property rights – rather than royalties, OhioHealth’s returns will be based
profits or future investment rounds for any companies created.
“Most institutions do take an ownership stake in the
intellectual property,” said Chris Willson, hired in February to head
OhioHealth’s commercialization program. “(Not doing so) makes good business
sense because OhioHealth wants to ... attract the best and brightest.”
The fund will offer concept-stage investments of up to
$75,000 for prototypes and market studies, and seed-stage infusions of up to $1
million for the final push to market, Willson said. The investment committee of
hospital executives and venture capitalists first meets in May.
This is the first time in memory that TechColumbus has
managed a fund with no state Third Frontier money involved, CEO Tom Walker said.
OhioHealth meshes well with other Central Ohio researchers at Ohio State
University and Nationwide Children’s Hospital, he said. Those
institutions created their own fund earlier this year.
“Adding capacity in that investment arm should bode well for
our region in years to come,” he said.
OhioHealth’s fund is available to employees and independent
doctors who practice within the 11-hospital system stretching from Mansfield to
Athens – bringing a rare opportunity for a commercialization program in a rural
hospital, Willson said.
OhioHealth started an in-house commercialization program
seven years ago to assist and advise inventors on patents, market assessments
and often as first customer. Successful companies that have used the program
include PercuVision LLC, a visualization system for catheter insertion;
Linebacker Inc., an alternative to tape for attaching IV lines; and Minimally
Invasive Devices Inc., which makes lens-clearing systems and other devices for
The system has been vocal in ensuring private hospitals have
access to state Third Frontier funds, but there still was a gap for its
inventors, Vanderhoff said.
“Even though there is seed funding, it is still very
challenging for innovators to access that,” he said. “Most of these individuals
have no track record of work in this (startup and VC) arena and therefore are
often competing on a national level with individuals who do.”
Meanwhile there has been an overall lull in concept-stage
funding, Walker said.
Willson, a neuroscientist, has worked in commercialization
13 years, including two years at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center
and nearly three years at the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s. He’s
seen several promising candidates at OhioHealth, including a novel suction
catheter for clearing blockages in blood vessels. Devices will be the main
focus of the program rather than drugs. Private hospitals that aren’t attached
to a research university often produce practical clinical innovations by nurses
and surgeons, Willson said.
“They have problems they have to solve on a day-to-day basis
working with the patients,” he said. “In being more need-driven it’s more
By: Carrie Ghose covers
health care, startups and technology for Columbus Business First