FROM THE AUA RESEARCH COUNCIL: A New World for Urological Discovery: The AUA Innovation Nexus
By: Steven A. Kaplan, MD, FACS | Posted on: 01 Jun 2022
“The process of scientific discovery is, in effect, a continual flight from wonder”
The touchstone of the AUA Strategic Plan on Research is the creation of a new interface between discoverers, entrepreneurs and industry. In February of 2022, the Board of the AUA approved our proposal to create a novel urology incubator, The AUA Innovation Nexus. This new initiative will support researchers, inventors and entrepreneurs in the transformation of their early stage ideas and concepts into tangible products. The AUA Innovation Nexus will include multiple elements such as: education, mentorship, networking, idea generation, expertise sharing from business executives and access to investors. These building blocks will help foster innovation, technological expertise and discovery with the ultimate goal to deliver better diagnostics and therapeutics for urology patients.
Why now? Changes in the health care system have created barriers for research and innovation. More troubling is that urology is one of the least funded surgical subspecialties by the National Institutes of Health and is the only one with a decreasing trend in funding over the past decade. There are many outstanding ideas and novel concepts percolating in our community, but there is a lack of practical knowledge on how to advance ideas to real-world innovation in urology.
Why the AUA? The AUA provides a unique environment for this interconnection because of its national and international outreach and foundational mission to advance the field of urology through research to improve patient care. In addition to its expertise in providing exceptional educational opportunities and its broad reach across industry and venture contacts, the AUA is a trusted leader of the urological community.
Other medical organizations have begun to develop their own incubators such as the Eyecelerator of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the EM Innovator of the American College of Emergency Physicians. To help create the AUA Innovation Nexus, a working group was created by AUA leaders which included representatives from business development, research, quality, education and operations. As with any new venture, our first step was to create a mission statement that would guide our group in both the development and sustainability of the project. The AUA Innovation Nexus mission is “To create opportunities for the Urologic Community to more quickly move from discovery to solutions that advance patient care.”
Our proposal to the Board included 4 aims: 1) establish the AUA Innovation Nexus, 2) establish an AUA Innovation Nexus Program Committee, 3) hold a 1-day program in conjunction with the 2023 Annual Meeting in Chicago, and 4) hold a 1-day workshop at AUA Headquarters in the fall of 2023. With the help of Mike Sheppard, AUA’s CEO, who will co-chair the Committee with me, we have created an outstanding Nexus Program Committee comprised of urological innovators across all sections and subspecialties of the AUA, as well as some partners from industry. It is an amazing group of voices and visions who are enthusiastic, engaged and committed to this new pathway for discovery.
Our target audiences include early startups to more advanced companies, industry, individual members, researchers, entrepreneurs, key opinion leaders, investment bankers and venture capitalists. The AUA Innovation Nexus will be the connector, hosting educational programs, showcases, and reverse pitch opportunities and facilitating networking. Through these efforts, we will bring the ideas of urology experts to those with the resources, mechanisms and experience to turn those ideas into reality.
We endeavor to make the AUA Innovation Nexus a sustainable program. To that end, we will continue development in phases with systematic review and metric tracking in place. Our focus in the initial stages will be on networking, education and showcasing. With continued success and confidence in establishing and operating the “incubator” phase of this venture, we hope to explore opportunities to expand into the “accelerator” space over time. An accelerator is a program that promotes and aids the rapid growth of selected ideas or projects. This phase may provide an even more proactive role in facilitating introductions resulting in the fast-tracking of new solutions for improved urological care for patients.
We are entering a new era in urological research and discovery. As we shared in previous editions of AUANews, we have created significant momentum in our outreach to individuals typically underrepresented in the field of urology, independent urology practices and the international urology research community. Over the next year, we will share our progress and opportunities to partner with you. Finally, always feel free to contact me with ideas, suggestions or thoughts. Let’s create a better future together!
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