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U-M Medical School puts medical innovation on "fast forward" with record year and new innovation chief

Kevin Ward, M.D., named executive director for medical innovation, will unify efforts to translate U-M biomedical innovation to the marketplace

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — As more and more discoveries made by University of Michigan Medical School researchers make their way toward becoming products that can help patients and health care providers, the school has named a new leader to accelerate that effort even further.

Data released today show that UMMS researchers generated a wealth of technology transfer activity in the last U-M fiscal year, with a record 133 new inventions reported, and a record 41 patents issued. Both figures represent one-third of U-M’s total.

On other measures of how well ideas are moving from the laboratory to the clinical setting, the school posted solid results for FY2013.

According to U-M Tech Transfer, more than three-quarters of U-M FY2013 revenues from past patents and licensing agreements – $11.1 million of $14.4 million – came from technologies that began in the Medical School.

In addition, 44 of U-M’s 148 patent applications, 40 of its 108 new license agreements with industry, and two of its nine new business startups came from Medical School technologies in 2013. In all, 54 inventions from the Medical School were licensed as part of 40 license agreements with new and existing businesses.

Kevin Ward, M.D.

Now, the school has appointed Kevin Ward, M.D., a professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine with an extensive innovation track record, to lead an effort that will unify Medical School efforts to nurture commercialization and entrepreneurship activity in close collaboration with U-M Tech Transfer.

Ward’s appointment is part of the school’s strategic research initiative, Fast Forward to Tomorrow’s Cures.  As the first executive director for the new Fast Forward Medical Innovation initiative, Ward will bring together a broad array of efforts to help UMMS biomedical research discoveries make the transition to clinical application and to industry and venture partners.

The new initiative integrates the Medical School Office of Research’s business and commercialization groups – Business Development and the MTRAC for Life Sciences commercialization fund – under the umbrella of Fast Forward Medical Innovation. Ward and his team will partner with key units across campus, such as U-M Tech Transfer, the College of Engineering Center for Entrepreneurship, the Business Engagement Center, and other schools and colleges -- as well as reaching beyond the university.

Ward and the medical innovation team will:

  • Establish a “front door” for supporting biomedical innovation at the Medical School and Health System.
  • Accelerate innovation and commercialization of research from inception to impact for therapeutics, devices, diagnostics, and health information technology.
  • Attract commercial partners via novel partnership models.
  • Create an entrepreneurial ecosystem by enhancing knowledge of technology transfer and entrepreneurship through education.

“We’re setting the stage to dramatically increase the collaborative strength that our faculty and staff bring to commercialization and entrepreneurship efforts at the University,” says Steven Kunkel, Ph.D., senior associate dean for research and endowed professor of pathology research. “As a school, we aim to be renowned not only for our research but also for our innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Ward has an extensive innovation and commercialization track record in the fields of emergency medicine and critical care.  He also directs U-M’s new Michigan Center for Integrative Research in Critical Care, a multidisciplinary effort to tackle key challenges in caring for patients in emergency and intensive care settings.

“It's a privilege to have the opportunity to lead this exciting new initiative and to serve our faculty innovators,” says Ward. “Fast Forward Medical Innovation will create an easily navigable roadmap with a variety of tools and assets to nurture and accelerate the ability of our world-class faculty and staff to move from ideas to impact. We also will strive to bring unprecedented value to industry through creative partnerships leveraging U-M's strengths. Finally, we hope to create a multiplier effect for team science across the University as it relates to biomedical innovation and its potential to impact human health.”

For more information about the Fast Forward Medical Innovation effort, see

For more about technology transfer activity at the University of Michigan, see the annual report at

One of U-M’s top priorities is to help spur economic development through a rich variety of programs in entrepreneurship, tech transfer, venture creation, business engagement, research, and education. Learn more at


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