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FROM THE AUA RESEARCH COUNCIL Innovation in Urology: What Does It Mean?

By: Steven A. Kaplan, MD, FACS, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, New York | Posted on: 20 Mar 2024

We love the term innovation! Associated terms such as futuristic, enlightening, enterprising, and even moneymaking create excitement, buzz, and the drive to be part of something new. Urology is particularly well positioned to develop and grow a culture of innovation because we are technology oriented, early adopters, and serve a population with conditions that are ripe for new ideas.

But has urology met the calling for innovation? Certainly, in the world of benign prostatic hyperplasia and urinary incontinence, there have been and continue to be evolving new technologies that are less invasive, preserve sexual function, and perhaps most importantly, avoid the need for long-term medications for quality-of-life disorders. In an era of polypharmacy, taking 1, 2, or sometimes 3 fewer prescriptions is a worthy goal. Finally, newer agents to treat metastatic disease of the prostate and bladder have helped increase life expectancy and quality of life.

That being said, we still lag far behind other specialties with respect to funding innovative ideas, especially in the earlier portions of the discovery cycle (ie, basic and translational science). The good news is that this is beginning to change. Transformative ideas are percolating throughout urology. The COVID-19 experience created an environment of tragedy, hardship, and hope for a better and more efficient health care future. Specifically, the need and desire for opportunities to invest in remote care, home diagnostics, and even therapeutics are going to dramatically change health care in the US. Creation of the American Urologic Innovation Nexus has surpassed our own expectations and is only in its infancy. A number of startups who presented at our inaugural meeting last year in Chicago have now completed Series A funding and have attributed their involvement at AUA Innovation Nexus an important part of their rapid growth.

On a personal note, having traveled in both the academic and the venture/entrepreneur world, the opportunities to share these experiences and develop a platform for others to achieve success have been enormously gratifying. There has never been a better time to be in health care with the evolving world of technology and artificial intelligence at your fingertips. In addition, the use of new modalities to help deliver better health outcomes for all patients, particularly those who have not been well served in the past by the health care system, is not only something we want to do but something we need to do!

Hope abounds! We look forward to sharing incredible and exciting new ideas and programs, and hope you will engage with them. There is considerable enthusiasm and support from the American Urological Association and our strategic partners in expanding the Innovation Nexus into a living, breathing entity with continuous access to innovation resources as well as continuous collaboration among health care professionals, the banking industry, venture capitalists, and successful urologic entrepreneurs. There is so much more to come in the new year!