Stanford’s Biodesign Program Aims To Make Healthcare More Affordable

Stanford Biodesign Program

“Innovative fellows go back out into the world, taking with them not just their first invention but their capacity to keep inventing – and to teach others how to invent. This is the multiplier effect: We seed the world with people who approach innovation using this proven, needs-based process.”

The recently renamed Byers Center for Biodesign is fostering the creation of innovative new technologies and inventions at the hands of its talented graduates and fellows. Stanford’s collaborative program, which unites scholars with backgrounds in medicine and engineering, provides an interdisciplinary approach to solving some of the biggest challenges in clinical care environments. On the heels of its 15th anniversary, the Biodesign program aspires to strengthen its mission and refocus its vision for the future.

“Going forward, with the monumental changes in health care and the many cost pressures on the system, we need to create technology that enhances care and does it in a way that’s not unduly expensive. That is a sea change.” Paul Yock, MD, Professor and Inventor at Stanford

Assessing healthcare affordability

Along with the new name celebrating venture capitalist and longtime advocate Brook Byers, the program is also moving its efforts in a new direction – healthcare technologies that enrich care while also remaining affordable.  Yock has mentioned that in the past, the program did not take into consideration how much the inventions would cost to patients, or to the health care system as a whole.

Deloitte’s 2015 Global Health Care Outlook report names “cost” as the biggest healthcare issue plaguing countries worldwide, with health care spending expected to reach $9.3 trillion by 2018. New technology development is cited as a way to enable more efficient treatment options and counteract rising costs, but only if these new advancements offer a lower cost alternative. Biodesign trainees are now working on inventions that are not higher-priced replacements, but life changing devices that offer maximum benefits at minimal costs.

Success of past trainees

Looking back at the program’s historical portfolio of talent, there is a clear precedent of trainees going on to establish their own companies and product lines. Victor W. McCray, MD, went on to cofound and serve as CEO of Ocular Dynamics, a company that has developed a contact lens coating that protects the cornea and combats severe eye dryness. Patients that have had success stories after wearing the lenses include a young woman with bilateral corneal edema, and a patient that suffered from a corneal ulcer and chronic dry eyes due to chemotherapy treatments. A team of fellows founded Zenflow Inc., a company with the mission of providing alternative solutions to men that suffer from prostatic hyperplasia. Nick Damiano, MS; Shreya Mehta, MS; and Tiffany E. Chao, MD decided to start the enterprise after observing the emotional strain that current treatments were putting on the patients in their clinic.

With their sights set on new affordable horizons, this year’s fellows have additional considerations to make when deciding on what health care device to invent. Uday Kumar, MD, Biodesign Program Fellowship Director, said the following in regards to the thought process involved during the selection stage, “You have to ask, ‘Is there a clear regulatory path? What is your pathway to reimbursement and is it feasible? Can you protect the intellectual property? What business model will provide sustainability? Is there global play beyond the U.S.?’” Fellows then collaborate with leaders in the marketing, finance, and compliance fields in order to bring their idea to life and develop an implementation strategy.

With the shift toward fostering more global partnerships for optimal biomedical innovation, Stanford’s Biodesign program is expected to reach new heights in the coming years.

Sierra Kennedy
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