By Mrs. Flavia Hulsey (Western Regional Medical Command)January 6, 2016
Col. David McCune, research consultant, Western Regional Medical Command, recently had an opportunity to showcase Army medicine's research program during an annual event in Seattle.
Seattle Startup Week was a free, five-day celebration of the startup community that builds momentum and opportunity around entrepreneurship. The event featured various tracks by discipline, and the health care track had more than 325 registrants.
"I have found that participating in events like Seattle Startup Week is a great way for us to get the word out about our capabilities as a research entity," McCune said. "When we do this, we get to partner with companies who have developed innovative technologies that address Soldiers' health needs, we create positive feelings toward our institutions in the community, and we improve the academic output of our graduate health sciences education programs."
McCune was one of two panelists during a session on "Partnering in the Digital Health Ecosystem."
"The Seattle biotechnology industry, including the startup sector, has a bit of a blind spot with respect to the military," he said. "They know we are here, and they might even be aware of us as a potential marketing opportunity, but they are not in the habit of thinking of us as a partner.
"Conversely, one of the challenges for the Army is finding good ideas to address the health care needs of Soldiers and their families … Reaching out to innovators in the health information technology sector has the potential to bring in these new ideas and improve the way we deliver health care," he said.
To illustrate how the military and startup entrepreneurs could partner, McCune shared one example of success he had while serving at Madigan Army Medical Center. The Army hospital partnered with a startup mobile smoking cessation application.
"Just like every other health care organization we struggle with tobacco abuse, so using their product is a really neat idea because it met a need within our organization; it had the ability that we could start small with a pilot to demonstrate if there was potential there and seek grants together. So that's one model that we were successful with," he said, adding that the partnership did eventually lead to grant funding and implementation.
Swatee Surve, founder and CEO, LiteSprite, organized the health care track at Seattle Startup Week and said she wanted to expose entrepreneurs to the possibility of working with the military because she knew firsthand its value in developing a win-win for those in the private and public sector.
Surve partnered with McCune at Madigan to field her mobile game that helps individuals manage stress, anxiety and depression. She wanted others to see the potential as well.
"We wanted to provide a broad overview for people who are interested, considering or are actively doing health care start up work. It's a broad, complex ecosystem, and the military is a large part of that," she said. "So having representation from military partners, especially local partners, was important."
The session, she hoped, would at least help entrepreneurs understand the process, find a contact and think about their own products or applications in the research context versus purely its commercial applications.
McCune said he was very pleased to have participated in the event and saw the potential for future research collaborations between military medicine and startups in the Seattle area.
"To varying degrees, there's definitely research and partnerships going on (throughout the Army)," he said. "We just feel like we're doing something really novel out here in terms of a really robust attempt to collaborate with both the civilian academic and technology communities."