University of California’s QB3 Takes On Medical Device Startups At New Incubator

6/3/14Follow @tanseyverse

Daniel Rosenman was remarkably fit and barely 50 last summer when he and his wife Christine Winoto began imagining what he’d do when he retired some day. As a veteran Bay area medical device engineer and consultant, Rosenman had already been donating time to help pediatricians develop new devices for sick children at UC San Francisco, Winoto’s workplace.

“When I’m retired I’ll probably just give up my time to UCSF,” Winoto remembers her husband saying.

Rosenman never had the chance to carry out that plan. On a mountain bike ride in the hills above Lake Tahoe in late August, Rosenman suffered a fatal heart attack. But his impulse to help less experienced medical device inventors is living on, thanks to a new program at UCSF and a band of his admiring colleagues.

Shortly after Rosenman’s death, UCSF leaders started creating the Rosenman Institute, a new medical device incubator within an existing campus-based bioscience program, QB3. Startups at the new incubator will be advised by more than a dozen volunteer industry experts who quickly signed up to help in Rosenman’s honor. The members are now called the Rosenman Fellows.

“They’re all Dan’s friends,” says Winoto, who is spearheading the project as the assistant director of QB3, which is short for the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences. QB3, an interdisciplinary consortium of three University of California campuses, has developed a network of five incubators since 2006. But until now, QB3 incubators have concentrated mainly on startups developing drugs or diagnostic tests.

The Rosenman Institute will extend QB3’s reach to medical devices. Its official launch will come on June 4, at a UCSF symposium designed to encourage potential medical device developers. But the Rosenman Fellows have already been at work for months, informally assessing ideas bubbling up at the university. The non-profit institute will start small this summer by helping a handful of entrepreneurial UC academics to refine their inventions and plot their business strategies. But the incubator may eventually welcome applications from any innovative group in California, whether inside or outside the University of California system, says QB3 director Regis Kelly.

“We’ve been doing this long enough to know, you have to increase your pipeline,” Kelly says.

Well before Rosenman’s death last summer, Kelly had been thinking about including medical device innovators in QB3’s existing incubator programs. But he wasn’t sure QB3 could help them.

“We had no experts,” says Kelly, an expert in cell biology and neurobiology. “I didn’t know enough people in the medical device area.”

Still, Kelly pursued the possibility at the urging of members of UCSF’s Department of Surgery, including the department chair, Dr. Nancy Ascher. Ascher says she saw great ideas for devices or tools germinating in her section. But those ideas rarely moved swiftly to the market, because university physicians have little training in business development, she says. “For those with an idea, it is daunting to think about turning that idea into a product or service that can help a lot of people,” Ascher says.

In mid-August, Kelly asked his QB3 colleague Winoto about the idea of a medical device incubator, because she, as well as Rosenman, had a background in medical device development. Rosenman was a co-founder of cardiovascular device company BioCardia, a consultant and designer at other device companies, and holder of more than 30 US patents.

“Two weeks later, my husband passed away,” Winoto says. She and her son Jonas, 7, had stayed behind at the family’s vacation house near Lake Tahoe while Rosenman powered up the hills on his bike to a vista point overlooking the lake with a cycling companion. The two bikers were heading back down when the heart attack felled Rosenman (pictured above.) An ambulance arrived too late to save him, Winoto says.

At Rosenman’s memorial service, Kelly saw a room packed with biomedical engineers. He had a sudden idea. Perhaps … Next Page »

Bernadette Tansey is a freelance journalist based in Berkeley, CA. Follow @tanseyverse

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