Real-world learning as a Mayo Innovation Scholar
This past year, I participated in the Mayo Innovation Scholars Program, a uniquely designed program that provides an opportunity for undergraduate science and economics students to research and analyze Mayo Clinic invention ideas. The experience was enriching in that it enabled me to critically assess a variety of issues from both a scientific and logistical perspective.
The program was a focal point of numerous internship interviews and helped me get an internship with the Healthcare Group at an investment bank in New York this summer. More importantly however, I have wonderful memories of working with a team of driven, smart, funny and talented peers.
Macalester College's team consisted of four students that included Philip Titcombe and Chen Gu (science focus) and David Lopez and me (economics focus). We assisted the Mayo patent and licensing experts by presenting a feasibility study on a new technology that delivers drugs across the blood-brain barrier and is under development by Mayo scientists.
Under the guidance of an MBA student from Augsburg College (Chad Leonard) and our faculty mentors at Macalester, our team systematically assessed the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the technology in the medical field and in terms of its economic value. The value of the project lay in the inter-meshing of knowledge between the science and economics students. Although Philip and Chen were primarily responsible for understanding the scientific technicalities behind the product, David and I worked alongside them, conducting patent searches and pausing for a "teach-back" lesson where Philip and Chen would simplify the intricacies of the science behind the invention.
Besides an intricate description of the technology and the patents associated with it, the final report included a market analysis of buyer and supplier power, the threat of substitutes, competition and the barriers to entry in order to ascertain the profitability of the product. Ultimately our report recommended that both the therapeutic and diagnostic applications of the new technology be licensed out to two specifically identified pharmaceutical companies that are specialists in the field of drug delivery.
The project made me realize that while necessity is truly the mother of invention, the real world demands the analysis of numerous factors such as pricing, affordability, future demand projections, unemployment, inflation, demographic changes and even cross-border migration. By bringing together an Indian, a Malaysian, a Chinese and an American, the project inspired many a discussion on the diseases to which medical research money should be distributed, the social value of patenting - as well as the usual digressions on soccer team rivalry!
Having to juggle four classes, extracurricular activities, sports and getting some necessary sleep in the middle of a Minnesota winter brought the team together in every way. Besides the academic knowledge and the real world experience, it was the exchange of ideas, the shared labor of a stellar product, the intellectual curiosity, late nights in the library over endless cups of coffee, and the team camaraderie that allowed us to embrace real-world unknown elements with confidence. The experience afforded us the chance to work across multiple disciplines, including biomedical sciences, supply-demand economics and biomedical ethics. By honing our critical thinking, effective written and oral communication skills, it proved to be the perfect application of a liberal arts education.
Designed by retired Medtronic executive John Meslow in 2006, the Mayo Innovation Scholars Program (MISP) is a unique synthesis of cutting edge scientific research and economic feasibility studies. The program offers an opportunity for undergraduate science and economics students to research and analyze projects submitted by Mayo Clinic scientists and physicians to Mayo's Office of Intellectual Property, thus extending academic learning beyond the confines of the classroom and laboratory.
Funding for MISP is provided by the Medtronic Foundation. Additional funding and support comes from the Mayo Clinic Office of Intellectual Property and the Minnesota Private College Council.