Vanderbilt leads $12M effort to accelerate real-world impact of biomedical innovations through education, mentorship and funding for aspiring entrepreneurs

Robert Webster (Vanderbilt University)

Vanderbilt University’s Robert Webster and Charleson Bell, BE’07, MS’09, PhD’15, will receive $12 million to establish and manage the Mid-South Research Evaluation and Commercialization Hub. REACH will focus on accelerating real-world impact of biomedical innovations through education, mentorship and financial support for entrepreneurs.

The hub spans a four-state network (Tennessee, Mississippi, Kentucky and Virginia), and entrepreneurs from any university in those states are eligible to apply. Webster, who is Richard A. Schroeder Professor of Mechanical Engineering and faculty affiliate with the Vanderbilt Institute for Surgery and Engineering, will lead the overall hub, which will run within VISE. Bell, director of entrepreneurship and biomedical innovation at the Wond’ry, Vanderbilt’s Innovation Center, will lead Tennessee operations.

Charleson Bell (Submitted photo)

Diversity is woven into the hub at all levels, from the leadership team through the review committee. Activities will include individuals from community and technical colleges and from minority-serving institutions that have a hard time getting support for innovation and entrepreneurship. This endeavor will significantly further Vanderbilt’s efforts toward inclusive innovation.

“Diverse perspectives are essential to turn university ideas into lifesaving tools in the hands of doctors,” Webster said. “So many students and faculty share this vision—to their very core—but lack the business, legal and practical insights they need to get started.

“The hub will bring these disparate concepts together through timely coaching and mentoring from me, Charleson and other hub leaders, who have built businesses from the ground up around university inventions. We know what it feels like and what it takes, and we can’t wait to help others unlock the potential of their ideas—and themselves—as innovators and entrepreneurs.”

Bell says that inclusive innovation is part of the equity, diversity and inclusion ethos that perfuses all innovation at Vanderbilt: “Diverse teams with unique backgrounds, expertise and lived experience are the best suited to come together to empathize from multiple perspectives and conceptualize creative solutions addressing those needs in an optimal manner.”