Posted at 8:14 AM
Imagine a world where cures for Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis and opioid addiction were readily available. Anxiety, autism, depression, PTSD and a host of other neurological conditions would also be greatly mitigated through treatment in this fantasy land.
But what if that fantasy wasn’t far off from reality? The world’s leading neuroscientists believe that through brain mapping and nanotechnology, therapies that vastly improve if not totally cure these devastating ailments are within reach.
Pushing toward a medical breakthrough at a faster pace, however, will require more federal investment and a greater prioritization of technology transfer – the process of transferring new tech from lab to market.
Patricia Tomczyszyn, program manager for the Minority Business Development Agency’s Inclusive Innovation Initiative, will advance the Department of Commerce’s priorities in tech transfer this week at the 15th Annual World Congress for Brain Mapping and Therapeutics in Los Angeles. Joining Tomczyszyn will be Dr. Walter Copan, Undersecretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology.
To understand why MBDA must be represented at the Society for Brain Mapping and Therapeutics (SBMT) conference requires acknowledgement of the history of minority business enterprises in tech and an understanding of the Trump administration’s FY19 budget priorities.
The former is dishearteningly simple. Minorities were underrepresented in the tech boom of the 1980s, Tomczyszyn said. MBDA is now working to engage “HBCUs, entrepreneurs and business owners into tech transfer. That’s what I3 [Inclusive Innovation Initiative] is all about.”
The latter, meanwhile, is fairly direct. President Trump has made tech transfer and commercialization of lab-to-market technologies a priority across all federal agencies.
The potential to improve health outcomes makes brain mapping’s developing technology an incredibly worthwhile pursuit. But pursuing brain mapping requires patience, financial support and perhaps more widespread understanding of the technology. Brain mapping is essentially taking nano-level slices and creating potential treatments. For reference, one sheet of paper is roughly 100,000 nanometers thick.
Here’s an example of brain mapping in action: when treating brain tumors without nanotechnology, doctors are able to inject cancer-fighting drugs into the tumor, but those harmful chemicals could leak out beyond the tumor and damage good tissue. With brain mapping, however, doctors can “spray” nano material onto the brain, highlighting the tumor and essentially building a wall around it, so treatments are isolated to that specific region without harming any surrounding tissue.
MBDA is hoping to support minority-owned tech businesses in this space, like the founder and president of the Brain Mapping Foundation, Dr. Babak Kateb. A board member of the Society for Brain Mapping & Therapeutics, Kateb’s organization does groundbreaking work in brain mapping but needs Federal Government support in his efforts to commercialize the research of its members.
Kateb is working with Congress to get funding for a brain mapping innovation park, where neuroscientists and researchers could collaborate, develop products faster, and essentially create an accessible database that would hold the fruits of their researching efforts. The possibilities for MBEs in leveraging tech transfer in an innovation park like the one Kateb is proposing are endless. Among the many technologies created in federal labs are GPS, Siri, memory foam and the internet.
Tomczyszyn, who will moderate the panel “Bridging the Valley of Death with Federal and Non-Federal Funding,” will also be joined in Los Angeles by Frank Vassallo, CEO of Technology and Communications Systems, Inc. Vassallo took a radio frequency device developed for the defense industry and modified the product for the medical industry. SparkOff prevents operating room fires before they happen.
“I need people like Frank to talk to other MBEs. He speaks the same language and has experienced the same things,” Tomczyszyn said. “A lot of people are intimidated by tech transfer, but it really does pay off. Our goal is to get more minorities, historically black colleges and universities, and minority-serving institutions involved.”
MBDA looks forward to connecting with scientists, researchers and stakeholders this weekend, connecting them with labs, helping MBEs secure funding, and assisting firms that are approaching the tech transfer phase. Learn more information about MBDA's Inclusive Innovation Initiative.