We’ve covered a lot of National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) news in the past few years, making their research one of our most popular topics. Knowing that, NSBRI recently reached out to us to tell our readers about a new funding opportunity targeted at small businesses who are in, or have graduated from, business accelerators. Via email we interviewed Dr. Dorit Donoviel, NSBRI’s Industry Forum Lead, about this opportunity.
Dan Buckland, Medgadget: What differences from traditional academic research (which is what NSBRI is usually known for) do you expect to occur while using an accelerator based small-business model for countermeasure and space life science product development?
Dr. Dorit Donoviel, NSBRI: The SMARTCAP program is aimed at helping small businesses successfully transition promising biomedical products from “bench to bedside.” The cost of making this leap is significant and doing so requires expertise in science, medicine, engineering, and business. The work may stall due to gaps in traditional grant funding or risk-aversion by investors. Hence, it is critical that multiple stakeholders in government, universities, and private sector partner together to propel promising solutions forward. In recent years, business accelerators have been driving technology innovation and small business creation in a cost-efficient and rapid manner. The accelerators perform a careful screening and provide intensive mentoring which bolsters nascent companies on the path to success. NSBRI believes that by partnering with accelerators and their companies to fund and develop technologies for Earth as well as for space, everyone wins.
Medgadget: What type of products or concepts are ideal for this procurement?
NSBRI: Examples of products that address a few of the “pain points” for space are diagnostic tools for surveillance of brain or ocular health, radiation countermeasures, ultrasound and other modalities used in novel diagnostic and therapeutic modes, behavioral health solutions (to assess and treat), and autonomous clinical decision tools.
Medgadget: What are some of the limitations in human spaceflight translational research that companies applying for this opportunity might not be aware of?
NSBRI: The constraints on health care in space are similar to those experienced in remote or under-resourced regions on Earth. Technology solutions that address medical needs or job performance must be minimally-invasive, user-friendly for non-expert operators, compact, lightweight, and consume minimal power, water or other resources. IT solutions must stand alone and not require internet connectivity. Materials and electronics should withstand the gravitational forces of launch and re-entry and exposure to low doses of ionizing radiation.
Medgadget: How will companies with no prior experience in human spaceflight medicine be mentored? Should those companies apply for this opportunity?
NSBRI: The SMARTCAP-Accel program specifically targets companies with no prior experience with human spaceflight. Interestingly, we have seen that some of the companies we’ve worked with, such as 2012 SMARTCAP awardee ACell Inc., have found that the adaptations they’ve made for space have made their products marketable in new ways on Earth as well.
We encourage companies who have questions about their suitability for the program to contact us. Our scientists and managers welcome discussions with interested parties so that areas of mutual interest and needs can be identified. The NSBRI Industry Forum is sensitive to the risk that small companies take when they diversify and will work to best align everyone’s primary goals.
Medgadget: Will winning companies be able to fly their products in space?
NSBRI: Before getting to space, a promising technology must be assessed in a setting on Earth that simulates spaceflight and pass other technical tests such as surviving high gravitational forces and some exposure to ionizing radiation. NSBRI and NASA typically fast-track products that meet immediate pain points for human spaceflight.
Companies, in partnership with sponsoring accelerators, can submit applications for the SMARTCAP-Accel program until July 22, 2013 at www.smartcap.org.