Times Union | August 24, 2016

Albany Med’s biomed business academy set to launch

Collaborative center improves patient care, area’s economy

Dr. Julie Pilitsis recalls how physicians often come up with ideas and innovations to improve patient care, but aren’t sure where to turn next.

“In medical school we learn a lot about being doctors,” she said last week. “We don’t learn a lot about business.”

But times are changing.

Albany Medical College, where Pilitsis chairs the Department of Neuroscience & Experimental Therapeutics, is leading a multidisciplinary effort — the Biomedical Acceleration and Commercialization Center — that seeks to turn ideas into products that will improve patient care.

In the process, it could also benefit the Capital Region’s economy, creating jobs and growing new companies, as well as developing already existing technologies to serve new uses.

The partners in this effort are a who’s who of Capital Region businesses and institutions, including Siena College,Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Albany Law School, General Electric and IBM.

At the center of this effort is the BACC Academy, which launches Sept. 9. It will train entrepreneurs, physicians, engineers, researchers and students in the skills they’ll need to move innovations between lab bench, the bedside and business.

Courses will be taught by professors, researchers, attorneys, accountants and CEOs. Up to $25,000 in cash and services will be available to participants after graduation.

“We came up with a three-track curriculum, and we’ll have 15 to 20 participants in the first year,” said Amy Johnson, a former Apple engineer who is the BACC’s director. Classes will focus on business skills, leadership and management, and biomedical issues including managing intellectual property, regulations and reimbursement.

For James Barba, Albany Medical Center‘s CEO, and Dr. Vincent Verdile, the medical college dean, the bio accelerator is a way to improve patient care while building the Capital Region’s biotech sector.

Already, five companies are at the Albany Med campus, working on spinal devices, “smart” radio frequency identification tags to improve patient care, and software products used to connect patients, family and clinical teams and to train medical workers.

Once, such startups might have been expected to move to where the venture capital is. The Capital Region is full of examples of firms that launched here and then chased the money to Boston, New York City or Silicon Valley.

But Michael Hickey, a former MapInfo executive who later headed the Albany-based Center for Economic Growth, said that’s changing.

Hickey, now vice president and chief of staff at Siena College, pointed to Apprenda, a software company in Troy, that has managed to attract tens of millions of dollars in venture funding without moving.

Capital is more mobile, Hickey said…