NIH gets on the tech transfer startup wagon; announces winners of Neuro Startup Challenge

The NIH’s Neuro Challenge just announced 13 winners – student teams that built business plans around commercializing already-existing NIH technology.

The NIH has jumped onto the whole startup challenge-meets-accelerator trend – using it as a way to galvanize the private sector into licensing the government’s own technology.

It recently announced the winners of its Neuro Startup Challenge – a competition in which teams of students from various universities were tasked with with building out business plans around the NIH’s intellectual property. The teams worked to find ways to commercialize predetermined therapeutics, diagnostics and medical devices sanctioned by the government for startup use.

Last year, the NIH held a similar challenge around breast cancer. Next year, the concept will be to build businesses that harness nanotechnology to treat cancer.

If the startups take off, the idea is that the NIH will be able to receive royalties from their profits.

“This could be a model for the future of other federal agencies – other government programs are doing tech transfer and moving inventions out,” said Dr. Tom Stackhouse, associate director of tech transfer at the National Cancer Institute.

A lot of organizations, he said, haven’t had sufficient marketing resources to advertise the kind of intellectual property held by the government. It’s been a passive effort, really – “throwing something up on a website, hoping someone sees it,” Stackhouse said. Competitions like the Neuro Challenge are meant to help get NIH technologies off the shelf.

Thirteen winners were selected from the challenge, each of whom will receive $2,500 and mentoring to ready the startup for further investment and development.

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The winners included an ADHD therapeutic that tackles cognitive dysfunction, a diagnostic marker that can detect brain tumors early, and improvements on MRI technology to improve the internal body structure visibility.