College of Health Inventors created at McMaster

Mark Larché (left), associate chair, and Sheila Singh, chair, of the new College of Health Inventors at McMaster. Photo by Georgia Kirkos

A networking think tank focused on fostering success in entrepreneurship and innovation has been formed at McMaster University.

The College of Health Inventors comes out of the Michael G. DeGroote Initiative for Innovation in Healthcare (MGDII).

“The creation of this College is the next step in our strategy towards creating a culture of innovation, commercialization and entrepreneurship within the Faculty of Health Sciences,” said Paul O’Byrne, dean and vice-president of the Faculty.

The College of Health Inventors was developed by Sheila Singh, professor of the Department of Surgery; Mark Larché, professor of the Department of Medicine, and John Kelton, professor of the Department of Medicine and the executive director of the MGDII.

The group will meet several times during the year, both formally and informally, for discussions and presentations by invited speakers. Working together, this group will foster greater insight into commercial and entrepreneurial topics.

The College already has close to 30 full members who have demonstrated both interest and success in entrepreneurship, commercialization, and innovation. In addition, the College will have an associate group of members who have an interest in commercialization, licensing and company development, and are working to bring those to fruition.

“We expect members will be able to provide advice and mentoring to associate members,” said Kelton.

“They can address questions of how to raise the initial funds to move a project along, how to protect intellectual property, and give advice about when to step back and have professionals develop the product.”

Singh, the inaugural chair of the College, is co-founder and CEO of Empirica Therapeutics which is focused on the development of novel rationally designed immunotherapies against glioblastoma and brain metastasis. She has patented a suite of novel immunotherapies against CD133, a membrane glycoprotein expressed in a variety of tissues, as a potential target for anti-cancer chemotherapeutics.

“The College of Health Inventors provides a means to recognize and bring together a community of basic scientists at McMaster, who aim to embark on a path of translation of their research discoveries into new diagnostic tools or therapies that can directly impact patients,” she said.

“This path to commercialization is not always intuitive or easy and it requires many different skill sets and multidisciplinary expertise.

“By pooling our collective skills and knowledge, members of the College of Health Inventors can build a critical mass of experience and eventually, multiple successes in commercializing the best that Canadian scientists have to offer.”

Larché, the group’s associate chair, is cofounder of Circassia Ltd. which is a specialty pharmaceutical company for respiratory disease, and scientific advisor of Adiga Life Sciences which focuses on peptide immunotherapy. He’s an inventor on several patents related to the use of synthetic peptides for allergen desensitization.

“The College of Health Inventors represents a unique local repository of commercialization experience and know-how; offering support, advice and direction to members of the McMaster community who aspire to commercialize their health-related research findings,” he said.

“The College will strive to facilitate the creation of new commercial opportunities and entities, through a communal approach to mentorship of future McMaster entrepreneurs.”

Jeremy Hirota, chair of the associate members of the College and assistant professor of the Department of Medicine, is working with members of the Faculty of Engineering to improve lung health through the lens of commercialization.

“The question is how do we bring academic research to market efficiently, effectively, and systematically? We hope that by bringing together individuals with experiences in innovation, entrepreneurship, and commercialization, a strong shared narrative will emerge that can become a foundation for others in the McMaster community,” Hirota said.

Ishwar Puri, dean of the Faculty of Engineering, and Maureen MacDonald, dean of the Faculty of Science, welcomed the initiative.

“The new College is an exemplary example of how innovation is driven at McMaster through interdisciplinary collaborations, collegial discussions and a lens that favours the long term health of our communities,” said Puri.

“I have no doubt that this exceptional group of innovators will create inventions that will make a real difference in people’s lives.”

MacDonald added, “Innovation is at the heart of what we do, and how we do it at McMaster. We look forward to leveraging the College, and its participants, to enhance and amplify innovation and entrepreneurship across our campus.”

Members of the College from the Faculty of Health Sciences include:

  • Mehran Anvari, professor, surgery
  • Mick Bhatia, professor, biochemistry and biomedical sciences
  • Jonathan Bramson, professor, pathology and molecular medicine
  • Eric Brown, professor, biochemistry and biomedical sciences
  • Anthony Chan, professor, pediatrics
  • Lauren Foster, professor, obstetrics and gynecology
  • Alison Fox-Robichaud, professor, medicine
  • Gail Gauvreau, professor, medicine
  • Peter Gross, associate professor, medicine
  • Peter Kavsak, professor, pathology and molecular medicine
  • Mark Larché, professor, medicine
  • Yingfu Li, professor, biochemistry and biomedical sciences
  • Brian Lichty, associate professor, pathology and molecular medicine
  • Andrew McArthur, associate professor, biochemistry and biomedical sciences
  • Karen Mossman, professor, pathology and molecular medicine
  • William Orovan, professor, surgery
  • Guillaume Paré, professor, pathology and molecular medicine
  • Rolf Sebaldt, associate clinical professor, medicine
  • Sheila Singh, professor, surgery
  • Gregory Steinberg, professor, medicine
  • Richard Sztramko, assistant professor, medicine
  • Mark Tarnopolsky, professor, pediatrics
  • Yonghong Wan, professor, pathology and molecular medicine
  • Gerry Wright, professor, biochemistry and biomedical sciences
  • Teresa Chan, associate professor, medicine

Members of the College from the Faculty of Engineering include:

  • Todd Hoare, professor, chemical engineering
  • Zeinab Hosseini-Doust, assistant professor, chemical engineering
  • Heather Sheardown, professor, chemical engineering
  • Leyla Soleymani, associate professor, engineering physics

Members of the College from the Faculty of Science include:

  • Philip Britz-McKibbin, professor, chemistry and chemical biology

Read more about MGDII here. Learn about its latest initiative called The Clinic here.

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