The University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) and the University of Tennessee Research Foundation are pleased to announce Chris West as the campus’ first Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR). The EIR position is a shared resource between Memphis Bioworks Foundation and UTRF to continue encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship in Memphis and West Tennessee. Chris is a former Executive in the Healthcare Industry and comes to UTHSC with over 20 years of experience in tactical and strategic marketing for the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. He brings a commercially minded viewpoint to the EIR position, as well as experience in working with cross-functional teams with researchers and clinicians. Chris’s work with these teams deepened his knowledge of how science can be applied to solve real-world patient needs and create products that have value in the marketplace, making him the perfect candidate for his new role.

As UTHSC EIR, Chris will further UTRF’s activities by acting as a business mentor and commercialization advisor for UTHSC researchers with the goal of helping them translate their research innovations into commercial products or startup companies. This entails working with researchers to set development milestones to improve their concept and de-risk investment by potential investors, and thinking about and assessing the pros and cons of different avenues to commercialization. In addition, Chris will also work with UTRF to review applications for the UTRF Maturation Grants, an annual seed funding program that provides direct support to advance high-potential projects. His primary areas of focus will be pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and medical devices.

“There are fascinating innovations coming out of the university’s labs, yet many researchers are not familiar with the tech commercialization process. I see my role as partnering with them to provide a pathway out of the lab and into the commercial realm,” says Chris.

The EIR program was recently established in part through funding from a $500,000 i6 Challenge grant awarded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration through their Regional Innovation Strategies program to UTHSC in collaboration with Memphis Bioworks Foundation and UTRF. In addition to supporting Chris’ efforts as UTHSC EIR, the award will support the expansion of two seed grant programs, the CORNET and UTRF Maturation Grants. The CORNET (Collaborative Research NETwork) program was established by UTHSC Vice Chancellor for Research Steve Goodman and provides seed money to stimulate innovative, interdisciplinary, team-based research.

Collectively, the expanded seed grant programs and EIR represent a new Proof-of-Concept Center at UTHSC that will be a cornerstone in its efforts to develop novel medical solutions to meet regional health challenges, and a driver for job creation and economic growth in Memphis and West Tennessee. An important part of the Center is the partnership with Memphis Bioworks Foundation, a nonprofit organization known for supporting entrepreneurship and investments in bioscience and sustainability. Bioworks is also the home of the award-winning ZeroTo510 medical device startup accelerator, which has already launched three UTRF spinout companies.

“The Proof-of-Concept Center is an amazing opportunity to further promote the entrepreneurial culture at UTHSC as well as in the greater Memphis community,” says Richard Magid, PhD, Vice President of UTRF for UTHSC. “I am excited to welcome Chris as the center’s inaugural Entrepreneur-in-Residence and to support his efforts in helping entrepreneurs conceive and launch successful startups here and across Tennessee.”

For more information, or to schedule a meeting with Chris, please contact the UTRF Health Science Center Office.

Related articles: UTHSC Collaborative Research NETwork program