Mayo Clinic Ventures — seeds of entrepreneurship
Through the years, research has always been an important part of Mayo Clinic’s mission. As a result, many important medical inventions and therapies, such as the discovery of cortisone in 1929 for treating rheumatoid arthritis, have come to help patients.
Mayo Clinic established Mayo Clinic Ventures (MCV) in the 1980s to identify, develop, protect, and commercialize Mayo Clinic technologies. These technologies benefit patients worldwide while generating revenue that supports the clinical practice, research, and educational mission at Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic Ventures earns sales-based revenue from licensing inventions to drug and medical device companies for the products they develop from Mayo Clinic intellectual property.
We interviewed Dr. Andy Danielsen, the vice chair of Mayo Clinic Ventures, who shared his background. A local Minnesotan with a graduate degree in molecular biology, Mr. Danielsen has worked his way up through the ranks. Twenty-three years ago, he started out at Mayo Clinic as a research lab technician working on breast and ovarian cancer research. In 2002, he was hired at Mayo Clinic Ventures as a liaison between business and scientific staff, working on new inventions and figuring out how to market them. From there, he got involved with patents and seed funding. Dr. Danielsen and the team at Mayo Clinic Ventures take business ideas and partner with outside companies to market the products.
To date, Mayo Clinic Ventures has launched 10 startups in Rochester and several more in the Twin Cities, as well as in the major cities on the West and East Coasts. The local startups, in turn, create jobs and encourage people to relocate to Rochester. Dr. Danielsen shared several examples of how patients have benefited from recently patented Mayo Clinic inventions:
Mayo Clinic doctors assisted in the development of the Cologuard test for colorectal cancer that patients can do at home on stool samples. The Cologuard test finds cancer equally as well or better than colonoscopy does. Exact Sciences in Madison sells Cologuard worldwide.
Mayo researchers also discovered a new class of drugs that use the patient's own immune system to destroy cancer. MCV partners with pharmaceutical companies that sell these drugs. Thousands have been treated with these drugs.
One of the local biotechnology companies that MCV helped start is Ambient Analytics. Ambient Analytics sells software that uses an algorithm developed at Mayo Clinic. Their software is used in ICU and emergency rooms to help doctors gather and analyze the data so that they can make better medical decisions in complex situations. The software reduces errors and information overload, and patients benefit from better care.
Fitbit and other exercise bands monitor heartbeats but not heart rhythms. Atrial fibrillation, one type of abnormal heart rhythm, is short-lived and tricky to detect on an electrocardiogram or by using an exercise band. Mayo Clinic Ventures is currently working with AliveCor, which markets KardiaBand for Apple watches and the Kardia Mobile for smartphones. The KardiaBand and Kardia Mobile detect abnormal heart rhythms. Kardia Mobile is an electrode pad that pastes onto the back of a smart phone. The device communicates wirelessly with the Kardia app. To track your heart rhythms, you put your fingertips onto the electrode pad on the smart phone or on the wristband of an Apple watch.
Mayo researchers are developing a special undershirt fabric that can monitor heartbeats and rhythms and alerts the doctor if something is wrong. These washable EKG undershirts are not yet available to the public.
Karen Smith is a freelance writer living in Rochester. Karen has three decades of experience working in the IT industry as a technical writer. She also has an advanced certificate in medical writing and editing from the University of Chicago’s Graham School. Her website is medcitywriter.com.
Cover photo: Tripp / Creative Commons