UK, partners awarded $12 million to advance biomedical innovation, entrepreneurship

Photo of Campus
Mark Cornelison | UK Photo.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 13, 2023) — The University of Kentucky and its partners at four other institutions have been awarded $12 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to launch a new hub focused on accelerating real-world impact of biomedical innovations through education, mentorship and financial support for entrepreneurs.

The Mid-South Research Evaluation and Commercialization Hub (REACH) spans a four-state network of Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi and Virginia.

Vanderbilt University will lead the hub and UK will work with the University of Louisville (UofL) in Kentucky to continue to transform academic discoveries into real-world products that advance human health and catalyze a medical innovation economy.  

“The University of Kentucky continues to grow as a research university with an intense focus on our commitment to advancing the Commonwealth,” said Taunya Phillips, director of the UK Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC) and UK’s principal investigator on the project. “We are excited about the potential this collaboration brings to the spirit of innovation across our partners in the Mid-South Hub and look forward to transforming lifesaving and life-changing ideas into concrete solutions.”

The NIH's REACH program is dedicated to facilitating the transition of fundamental scientific breakthroughs into the marketplace. REACH achieves this goal by offering innovators comprehensive entrepreneurial training, guidance from both federal and industry experts, financial support for initial product definition studies and project management assistance.

UK’s representatives will collaborate with leaders at partner institutions Vanderbilt, UofL, Jackson State University and George Mason University. Collectively, the goal is to transform academic findings into tangible products that improve human health and stimulate the growth of a medical innovation-driven economy.

“There is a continuous need for innovation in health and entrepreneurship, especially with respect to health-related challenges facing the Commonwealth. UK is poised to provide a dynamic and forward-thinking approach to address these challenges,” said Linda Dwoskin, Ph.D., who holds the University Professorship in Graduate Medical Education in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences in the UK College of Pharmacy and director of the Kentucky Network for Innovation and Commercialization (KYNETIC).

“Entrepreneurship is critical to bring our innovations to the people who need them the most. We look forward to this new opportunity to help not only Kentuckians but people across the Mid-South,” said Dwoskin.

This initiative aims to create opportunities in states with significant untapped potential but limited resources for translating research breakthroughs into practical biomedical technologies. Entrepreneurs at universities across the four-state network are eligible to apply.

The NIH will contribute $4 million over four years to Mid-South REACH, with more than $8 million in additional matching funds from partnering universities, state economic development entities and public-private partnerships.  

As part of its role in Mid-South REACH, UK will continue to build off its alliances in other innovation-associated programs.

UK is part of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Mid-South Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Hub, one of 10 across the U.S., along with eight other institutions of higher education in the region, including Vanderbilt and UofL. The hub launched in January of this year aimed at accelerating product innovation, entrepreneurship and economic development. NSF funded the new hub with $15 million over five years.

UK currently leads KYNETIC, an NIH REACH program, along with UofL, the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development and Kentucky Commercialization Ventures, an initiative of the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation.

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number U01GM152538. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

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