Dell Medical School: a Catalyst for Austin Startups

By TIM GREEN
Special Contributor to Silicon Hills News

Maninder “Mini” Kahlon, vice dean for strategy and partnerships at the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin. Courtesy photo.

Maninder “Mini” Kahlon, vice dean for strategy and partnerships at the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin. Courtesy photo.

In July, after several years of preparation and construction, the Dell Medical School started instruction with its first class of students. The school, students and the Central Texas Community are walking hand-in-hand not only for a medical education, but to change how health care and medicine are done.

Part of the Dell Medical School (DMS) and community interaction involves the Austin startup community. Silicon Hills News talked to Maninder “Mini” Kahlon, vice dean for strategy and partnerships, and Mellie Price, executive director of technology innovation who has been an Austin company founder, CEO, funder and mentor, about how the school intends to engage with the startup community.

The interview has been condensed and edited.

Mini Kahlon: From my perspective, enabling the entrepreneurial community here is very important to us. It’s a model of how academic medicine can relate to an entrepreneurial community so we would hope to learn some lessons to spread to other places.

My biggest success, so far, is the recruitment of Mellie Price into our ecosystem not only because of her own history as an entrepreneur and a CEO but also as an obvious catalyst already in the Austin ecosystem.

Mellie Price, executive director of technology innovation at the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin. Courtesy photo.

Mellie Price, executive director of technology innovation at the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin. Courtesy photo.

Mellie Price: Two programs are helping turn research into health and medical products and services.

The Texas Health Catalyst program helps University of Texas faculty and clinicians affiliated with DMS and Seton Healthcare. It provides consulting and funding of up to $100,000. The first requests for proposals covered comprehensive joint replacement and women’s health.

The catalyst program received 83 proposals from some 30 organizations and a dozen academic institutions.

The other program, The Health Technology Innovation Platform, is an opportunity for DMS to identify companies in various stages of development that are interested in pivoting their product offering or their service offering into value-based care.

What Dell Medical School can provide to startups

MK: Given the expertise not only of the clinical domain but our ability to pull together industry expertise, we will leverage the people who have seen products go to market over and over again within the domain, so they will get feedback on whether these people think that their idea or product has potential or not.

If it does find a match within our care opportunities they get to be tested out within an actual clinical opportunity. That’s a very important de-risking. They can have their product used by leaders in healthcare and in these new models of healthcare. That’s part of what’s new is because we’re interested in products that help drive transformation.

They actually would have proven their value within a real demonstration that includes a real payer (such as an insurer). Other payers will recognize that this was a real implementation with a real payer.

Those things in a real setting that is hard to get especially for those that want to produce products for the future of care and the connection to a sustainable funding model.

MP: The medical school is really at the epicenter of creating these new models of care.

When you move from putting the doctor at the center to putting the patient at the center of all the business processes around that change. All of a sudden you’ve got data inputs and software and things that need to be built that simply don’t exist yet.

It’s health transformation at its root. So our innovation initiative has to encompass not just the traditional creating new molecules for pharmaceutical opportunities and running clinical trials. It’s literally business process re-engineering.

DMS as a catalyst

MK: What we’re working on is catalyzing the growth of health innovation in Austin. Our ideal metrics of success across various domains around health innovation are going to be the growth of this region almost independently of us.

MP: You hear that this is the first medical school to be built in 40-50 years tied to a Tier 1 research facility. But that’s not the cool part.

The cool part is that it’s very likely to be one of the last ones because there’re no major metropolitan areas that don’t have a medical school and those medical schools are beholden to traditional healthcare. It’s extremely difficult to change your revenue model.

We’re the lucky place on the planet that gets to work on this problem and really focus on how do we realign reimbursement incentives so that people are staying healthy longer and if they have to have a surgical episode, we’re reducing re-admissions and improving the outcomes.

It’s literally a once in a lifetime opportunity.

If we can really get that message out to the community as a whole and galvanize the community around the opportunity to get involved. Maybe you’re not a doctor maybe you’re not an entrepreneur but maybe you’re a community leader that can raise awareness in your church or your school about ways to engage with this unique opportunity that we have.

Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas at Austin, courtesy photo

The Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas at Austin, courtesy photo

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