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BIOMEDSHIP pilots new program for entrepreneurs-in-training

Purdue graduate students are learning how to develop a sound business model using a new training program called LaunchPad Central in the Biomedical Entrepreneurship Program (BIOMEDSHIP), an innovative graduate certificate program that provides experiential training in innovation and entrepreneurship in the context of biomedical technology and the medical device industry.

The software was developed by Steve Blank, a successful serial entrepreneur and Consulting Associate Professor at Stanford University, and is a proven methodology of customer development.

Fall 2014 was the first semester that BIOMEDSHIP students worked with the program at Purdue.

“I feel that there is more value in what we do now, especially with the technology,” said Alyssa Panitch, Leslie A. Geddes Professor in Biomedical Engineering, Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs, and Director for Deliberate Innovation for Faculty (DIFF) in the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship. “BIOMEDSHIP now helps prepare people for industry better than we ever have before.”

BIOMEDSHIP is a unique course designed to provide students with essential skills for the early development and management of new biomedical technologies. The program pairs graduate students in engineering with MBA students to work in teams to create a business model canvas. Each team is provided with a Purdue alumnus entrepreneur mentor, someone who understands medical devices and can offer a real-world perspective.

LaunchPad Central helps students gain insight into the processes of identifying new opportunities for innovation, assessing clinical and market potential, and taking the first steps in invention, customer development, patenting, early prototyping, development of new concepts, and commercialization.

“I think this course provides a great starting point for us engineers interested in entrepreneurship, to determine whether current research ideas that we believe intend to address different clinical needs are actually suited to go into the market and reach the customer,” said Michelle A. Visbal Onufrak, a graduate research assistant in the Weldon School who took the course.

“Being part of this course was a unique experience for me to get out of the comfort of the research zone, and to jump into action into the process of customer discovery. I discovered the importance of developing our product such that it is best tailored to the real needs of the end user.”

The software takes students through a process that helps them think logically and competitively about their business model. It prompts them through the stages of talking to potential customers and finding out what their needs are. It helps them evaluate the value proposition of their project and decide if their business model is appropriate or needs to pivot in some way to make it better and more competitive.

The BIOMEDSHIP classroom has flipped with the implementation of Launchpad Central. All the lectures are in LaunchPad, and most of the work is done online. Students can log on to talk with their mentor, their instructor, and their team to get feedback. Class time is used for teams to present the progress on their business model canvas and customer interviews and to share ideas and give each other feedback.

 “I think our students will come out very prepared for industry; they will be thinking more upfront,” Panitch said.  “They will have thought about important matters such as reimbursement, FDA approval, and will have a clear idea on how to develop a product.”

The class is not just for those with their sights set on the business end of entrepreneurship; it is also valuable for researchers. Panitch, who has launched three start-ups, said it is important for researchers to ask themselves why they are doing the research and what they are driving toward: “You always want to have a reason, and if you can focus your research well enough, then you can drive toward a product faster.”


Top photo: Fall 2014 BIOMEDSHIP course participants.