UCLA Biodesign Program Graduates Inaugural Class of Fellows at "Fast Pitch" Event

(Standing L-R): Desert Horse-Grant; Neil Parikh; Renea Sturm; Peter Hsiue; Alexandra Stavrakis; Marcus Goudie & Jennifer McCaney,. Seated: Gabe Oland, Iheanacho Emeruwa, Stephen Speicher, Gil Herrnstadt, Lucas Allera.

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LOS ANGELES (July 1, 2020) – UCLA Biodesign 2020 inaugural graduates were honored by its leaders, members of the UCLA Community and supporters in a virtual celebration held on Friday, June 26.

As the first of its kind cross-campus initiative in innovation and medical technology entrepreneurship, the UCLA Biodesign program graduated 10 Fellows and a team of four MBA graduates who completed their year-long training to be the next generation of physician innovators and entrepreneurs.

"A few months into their program, they were presented with a challenge they, nor any of the rest of us could have possibly predicted – that of completing their Fellowships, while continuing their work to innovate in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic," said Johnese Spisso, president of UCLA Health, CEO of UCLA Hospital System, and associate vice chancellor of UCLA Health Sciences, in her opening remarks. "Yet, the unrelenting demands imposed on the health system by the pandemic prompted a number of rapid innovations from our UCLA Biodesign Fellows that received world-wide media attention."

Apart from the pandemic, UCLA Biodesign Fellows continued to work tirelessly to develop robust technology prototypes and identify viable business models, with some already forming companies to help accelerate the development of patient-centered technologies.

Beth Seidenberg, MD, Founding Managing Director of Westlake Village BioPartners, delivered the keynote discussion, which focused on the emerging life science investor ecosystem in Southern California and addressed new venture creation and funding.

"So much has happened in a short time, and along the way, we were able to secure a federal grant, and an announcement from our Mayor, helping to anchor UCLA Biodesign as a pivotal part of the budding innovation ecosystem in Los Angeles," said Desert Horse-Grant, co-executive director, UCLA Biodesign. "We are making strides to build the partnerships that fuel entrepreneurship and create new technologies to help our patients and care providers."

"As part of a health system that is committed to learning, innovation is in UCLA's DNA," said Jennifer McCaney, co-executive director, UCLA Biodesign. "Our UCLA Biodesign Fellows" work bears that out, as they looked for and found innovative ways to improve some real gaps in patient care. I couldn't be more proud of their accomplishments, especially during such a challenging year."

"The UCLA Biodesign Fellowship is part of the larger innovation fabric at UCLA Health. Part of the DNA of being a learning health system is continually looking for ways to improve patient care, and the UCLA Biodesign Fellows have made great strides over the past year to advance that mission with the mentorship of our community partners," McCaney added.

The graduation program also showcased team pitches for funding of their innovation efforts over the past year to develop medical technologies that addressed the most challenging needs in health care and centered around a clinical theme in neurology, neurointerventional radiology, and orthopaedic surgery with product solutions spanning imaging, minimally invasive surgical tools, and digital health.