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UMB, UMBC to Create Innovation Hub in West Baltimore

Friday, December 1, 2023

University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) President Bruce E. Jarrell, MD, FACS, and University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) Dean Mark Gladwin, MD, announced Nov. 28 that the University has received a four-year, $4 million Research Evaluation and Commercialization Hubs (REACH) grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The grant, shared with the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), will support both institutions' work advancing the biomedical entrepreneurship and innovation economy in West Baltimore and Greater Baltimore. It will also serve to train one of the most diverse biomedical and entrepreneurial workforces in the country.

Jason J. Rose, MD, MBA
Jason J. Rose, MD, MBA
“We recognize that to create our own unique cohort of newly trained biotech entrepreneurs here in Baltimore, our accelerator will need to provide them with both research support and funding, as well as guidance through the process of commercialization and technology development," said Jason Rose, MD, MBA, associate dean of innovation and physician science development at UMSOM and principal investigator of the REACH grant. "We will be providing mentoring and educational programs from a diverse set of successful life science innovators and leaders to help distill their broad experiences — from navigating FDA regulatory pathways to financing new companies — to all of those who interact with the hub.”  

Through the REACH grant, as many as 44 early-career faculty and students will receive an initial seed investment of up to $100,000 each to help them test and develop commercially promising technologies. UMB will also use the grant to create the University of Maryland, Baltimore Life Science Discovery (UM-BILD) Accelerator program’s “proof-of-concept” hub — one of only five NIH-funded proof-of-concept hubs in the U.S. — in the University of Maryland BioPark and at bwtech@UMBC.

“The REACH initiative will help further advance successful technology projects and early-stage companies by paving the way for long-term funding opportunities through, for example, venture capital funds or federally funded small business innovation research or technology transfer awards,” Jarrell said.

Those awarded with pilot grants will gain access to the UM-BILD hub, in essence, a dedicated life sciences incubator that utilizes core services and equipment at UMSOM and other graduate schools within UMB and UMBC. They will also take part in business training programs involving inventors, entrepreneurs, and start-up founders with the potential for networking and meaningful mentorship.

In addition to providing funding and resources to life science innovators, UM-BILD will work with partner institutions to leverage existing, successful initiatives and programmatic efforts to increase biomedical workforce and startup workforce diversity. Besides UMSOM and UMBC, partner institutions include the University of Maryland, College Park, and Morgan State University, a historically black college/university (HBCU). Other collaborators include Blackbird Laboratories and TEDCO’s Maryland Innovation Initiative (MII). 

Karl V. Steiner, PhD, vice president for research and creative achievement at UMBC and co-principal investigator on the REACH grant, said the grant builds upon previous support from NIH — the Faculty Institutional Recruitment for Sustainable Transformation (FIRST) award, which enables the joint hiring of faculty from underrepresented groups in the biomedical sciences. “We are pleased to further strengthen the close partnership with our colleagues at UMB and beyond with this initiative.

Left to Right: Bruce E. Jarrell, MD; Karl V. Steiner, PhD; Valerie Sheares Ashby, PhD; Mark T. Gladwin, MD
Left to Right: Bruce E. Jarrell, MD; Karl V. Steiner, PhD; Valerie Sheares Ashby, PhD; Mark T. Gladwin, MD
UMBC President Valerie Sheares Ashby, PhD, said collaborations among higher education institutions in Maryland such as UM-BILD will be key to the state’s continued economic growth. “We are excited to work together to create opportunities for everyone to benefit from and contribute to this innovation ecosystem, staying true to our long-held commitment to inclusive excellence,” she said.

Added Gladwin who is also the vice president for medical affairs at UMB and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor at UMSOM, “Blacks, Latinos, and other underrepresented groups make up 34 percent of the U.S. population, but comprise only 15 percent of PhD graduates and 4 percent of tenured faculty positions in medical schools. There is even less diversity among venture-backed founders of life sciences companies. We clearly need to provide more opportunities for our underrepresented scholars, which benefits everyone as evidence suggests that workforce diversity improves productivity, financial performance, and employee satisfaction in these industries.”

David Weber, PhD, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at UMSOM, is a co-principal investigator of this grant.

Beyond the $4 million in funding from NIH, UM-BILD is supported by more than $5 million of non-federal matching funds through partner institutions including UMB, MII, UMSOM, and UMBC.

"The Maryland Innovation Initiative is proud to provide matching funds to accelerate the efforts of the NIH Reach grant and UM-BILD,” said Arti Santhanam, executive director of the Maryland Innovation Initiative. “Our unique model pulls together the five regional research universities to bring a truly diverse portfolio of faculty entrepreneurs and life science innovators, allowing them to move technologies from the lab bench to the bedside more efficiently."

Besides UM-BILD, the other new REACH hubs are:

  • Chicago Biomedical Consortium Hub of Innovative Technologies for Entrepreneurship and Science (CBC-HITES) led by Northwestern University
  • University of Montana’s L.S. Skaggs Institute for Health Innovation (SIHI-REACH)
  • Gulf Coast Consortia led by Texas A&M Health
  • Mid-South REACH Hub led by Vanderbilt University

Source: University of Maryland, Baltimore