UCSF Catalyst Awards Program Gains Traction, New Industry Partners

Catalyst Awards advisor Stacey Feld, JD, partner at Physics Ventures, left, is one of the three advisors recognized by CTSI's June Lee, MD, FACCP, Catalyst Program Director.

Fall 2013 Cycle Winners are Announced
In its fourth year of supporting early translational research, the Catalyst Awards program at UC San Francisco wrapped up its Fall 2013 cycle with nine finalists presenting their research ideas to an audience of nearly 50 reviewers made up of industry and academic experts in research, product development and commercialization. UCSF’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) funds and administers this major awards program.

More than 100 people attended the closed-door event that included early translational research presentations on projects ranging from an app to improve and guide newborn resuscitation in low-resource settings to a revolutionary targeted drug delivery technology for the treatment of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). For the presenting UCSF researchers, this event served as a pivotal opportunity to showcase their technology to a broad range of healthcare stakeholders – an integral group throughout the three-phase award process - and receive potential funding to advance their research. Projects fell within four tracks – diagnostics, devices, therapeutics and digital health.

“I’ve been involved with the Catalyst Awards program from the beginning. I think the program has a different emphasis now – it’s not purely for academic satisfaction. It allows people to think about application, especially for patient care,” said David Kim, MD, MBA, an advisor in both devices and digital health.

“Also, as a physician I’d love to see some of these new technologies being applied whether it’s digital health product, or a diagnostic tool or a therapeutic. During my ten years in venture capital that’s what I was funding – results in patient care. We see it at an even earlier stage here,” added Kim.

During the event, researchers were challenged with questions and requests for additional information to demonstrate a project’s value in the marketplace against potential competitors, scalability and benefit to patients, to name a few. Additionally, with the recently formed partnerships with Quest Diagnostics and MedImmune, the Catalyst Awards applicants will be able to benefit from additional funding and expertise provided by these industry partners.

“The Catalyst Awards program and early translational research have gained traction over the past few years – recent partnerships with MedImmune and Quest Diagnostics attest to the growing interest from industry in the innovation coming from here,” said June Lee, MD, FAACP, director of the Catalyst program at CTSI, which manages the awards.

“The caliber of the Catalyst Awards program participants and the mutually beneficial relationships between academics and industry partners formed during the program cycle continue to make it a success,” added Lee.

Three advisors were recognized for their outstanding contributions to the program - Sanjay Shah, MBA, senior program officer at the California Healthcare Foundation, Gary Patou, MD, managing director at MPM Capital, and Stacy Feld, JD, partner at Physics Ventures.

Fall 2013 participants share how the Catalyst Awards program impacted their research project:

       "We started a project two years ago to develop a new therapy for cataracts, built an academic program over two years, and identified molecules that looked like they could help people. We then started to read about the Catalyst Awards program as an excellent way to collect all the advisors we needed and take our project beyond the laboratory into the marketplace, ideally into the clinic. In a very accelerated way, we built our team together to be able to identify the critical next steps, identify the problems and move the project forward. It would have taken a much longer time to build out on our own.
       This is the first project I’ve taken this far from the laboratory to the clinic. I had some idea of the complexity and number of pieces involved in a drug discovery process – the marketing, intellectual property, and law aspects – but I didn’t have a full appreciation of how all those pieces link together, especially downstream in marketing and how we would put this product out there, ‘Who would be paying for it?’ In sort of a bootcamp way, the Catalyst Awards allowed us to get quickly up to speed on the aspects of drug discovery that we were less familiar with – that part was really valuable."
- Jason Gestwicki, PhD, associate professor in residence, Pharmaceutical Chemistry; associate professor, UCSF Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease; Project: "Non-Surgical Treatment for Cataract"

      "I’ve been involved in many translational research projects, but the common feature is that it always takes time. The Catalyst Awards program created a workflow, a framework to accompany these projects. It was useful to be put in contact with different key players in the field and set up expectations that we needed to accomplish. The Catalyst Awards provided that structure - I wish the program was available 10 years ago when we were working on other projects as well!
       I’m part of the bioengineering program, which CTSI is part of and I was involved with the Master of Translational Medicine (MTM) project. When I saw the call to apply to the Catalyst Awards program and we already had a project going on with AUTODIRECT, I thought it was a good match. It was a great experience and we look forward to the next phase."
- Jean Pouliot, PhD – professor in residence and vice chair, head of Physics, Department of Radiation Oncology; Project: "AUTOmated Deformable Image Registration Evaluation of Confidence Tool (AUTODIRECT)"

Catalyst Awards, Fall 2013 Cycle Winners

Digital Health

  • Roeland Hancock, PhD – Postdoctoral Scholar
    Project: “Early Mobile Screening for Reading Disorder Risk”

  • Holly Martin, MD – Assistant Clinical Professor
    Project: "BREATH: Baby Resuscitation Enhanced - A Tech Helper"


  • Aditi Bhargava, PhD – Associate Professor in Residence
    Project: “Delivery Challenges in Developing New Treatments for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)”
  • Jason Gestwicki, PhD – Associate Professor in Residence
    Project: "Non-Surgical Treatment for Cataract"

Diagnostics and Devices

  • Hanmin Lee, MD – Professor of Clinical Surgery
    Project: "SmartDerm: A Monitoring System for Decubitus Ulcer Prevention”
  • Jean Pouliot, PhD – Professor in Residence and Vice Chair
    Project: "AUTOmated Deformable Image Registration Evaluation of Confidence Tool (AUTODIRECT)"

*This event was made possible with the generous support of Sheppard Mullin.

VIEW Catalyst Awards event photos on CTSI’s Flickr page

Holly Martin, MD, presents a newborn rescusitation app.
Aenor Sawyer, MD, associate director of the Catalyst's Digital Health track & UCSF's Center for Digital Health Innovation, which recently announced its partnership w/ Samsung: http://bit.ly/1fJ2MC6
David Kim, MD, MBA, Catalyst advisor in both devices and digital health, gives feedback to presenters.
Jason Gestwicki, PhD, associate professor at UCSF, left, introduces his project on a non-surgical method to remove cataracts.

In addition to managing the Catalyst Awards, CTSI’s Catalyst program supports researchers at UCSF and CTSI Affiliate institutions through expert consultations and resource identification (internal or external with Contract Research Organizations). CTSI is a member of the Clinical and Translational Science Awards network funded through the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (grant Number UL1 TR000004) at the National Institutes of Health.