Upstate Medical University
Incubation & Acceleration Transformation
Robert J. Corona, DO, MBA, FCAP, FASCP
Chairman of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
The Central New York Biotech Accelerator (CNYBAC) was prepared to accept the onslaught of bioscience and medical technology (Bio/Med) and biotech entrepreneurial activity when it opened in 2012. While it had successful graduates, the flow of innovation did not storm the doors. One prominent graduate success story is Rapid Cure Technologies, a company located in East Syracuse, NY that develops and manufactures products that use an environmentally-friendly method of curing a material from a liquid to a solid in just seconds.Through discussions with former clients such as Rapid Cure and successful regional incubators, CNYBAC’s program was transformed to best meet entrepreneurial client requirements to include:
- Assistance in expanding the regions’ funding of entrepreneurial efforts specifically in direct alignment with the area’s Bio/Med and biotech industry funding process
- Providing cost-effective wet and dry lab space
- Promoting targeted commercialization service and mentorship
- Aligning insurance coverage assessment based on risk
To address these priorities, SUNY Upstate Medical University hired a vice president for innovation and business development, Dr. Robert Corona, formerly the chief medical officer at Welch Allyn, a diagnostic medical device manufacturer, and current SUNY Upstate Professor and Chair of the Department of Pathology.
“Our vision is to create a new culture to foster a real sense of inspiration to innovate, not just to create novelty, but to create real disruptive innovation,” explained Dr. Corona. “At CNYBAC, we encourage people to challenge conventional thinking to create new ways of doing things and to drive innovation.”
CNY Biotech Accelerator Vision
Be the most creative and imaginative academically based innovative biotechnology accelerator in North America.
Incubate and accelerate university — industry partnerships that discover, design, develop, and deploy innovative products for the bioscience marketplace.
Provide growth-oriented companies essential business acceleration services and access to industry-specific development resources. Collaborate with domain experts/mentors in creating comprehensive systems and teams that potentiate success.
Strategic Plan Objectives
To sustain a viable and distinguished incubator that will continue to collaborate, collide, evolve, and adapt within a dynamic Bio/Med and biotech environment through funding development, enhanced client service provision and academic outreach to clients and effective quality-driven management.
When Dr. Corona first arrived at CNYBAC, the facility was mostly equipped for wet labs in the hopes that pharmaceutical or Bio/Med companies would use the facility as startup space. However, this concept evolved over time to include more meeting spaces and collaboration areas. Dr. Corona believes that the environment of upstate New York is best suited for hardware and medical device companies to startup. There are abundant resources and a high number of scientists with expertise in hardware and medical devices located in the area surrounding CNYBAC. The facility is undergoing big changes to accommodate the need for these experts to gather and collaborate in one area. An advisory board, inclusive of client representation, was appointed to guide strategic plans. Other positions were filled to provide and promote equitable standard operating procedures and user-centric services. The square footage rate was decreased significantly and a risk-based approach to insurance coverage, along with access to reduced insurance rates through SUNY Insure, was instituted. Shared equipment was purchased through a SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) Empire State Development grant to provide startups with a low-cost co-habited wet lab licensing option and the Cultivate Program provided topical entrepreneurial education and networking sessions. Additionally, CNYBAC clients have gained access to academic-based core facilities, clinical trial expertise and environments, and various simulation centers.
Current construction projects at CNYBAC include a molecular genetics laboratory and a bioinformatics and digital imaging lab. The new genetics lab will focus on next generation sequencing to evaluate patients with cancer and inherited diseases under the umbrella of precision medicine. Since many cancers have a unique DNA or RNA signature, identifying the genetic make-up of a tumor can often give insights on the most appropriate therapy for patients. At the bio-informatics imaging lab, “virtopsies,” or virtual autopsies, can be displayed and analyzed. When a patient expires, their body is digitized into a high resolution CT-scan, where it is then displayed onto 3D screens for viewing and interaction.
The lab will also have a digital cadaver table where the whole body can be viewed on a large full body sized display. The Upstate Medical Innovation and Novel Discovery (MIND) center, with a projected completion date of January 2016, is a further transformative initiative for CNYBAC. Upstate MIND includes:
- The “Theater-in-the-MIND,” a projected TEDx-certified theater and collaboration space
- The “Creation Garage” for ideation, prototyping and mentor meet-ups
- A “Collide and Cloister Café”
- “Community Pods” that are complemented by DIRTT wall systems and Herman Miller “Innovation by Design” furnishings.
CNYBAC will continue to promote vital partnerships with The Tech Garden, GE Health Care/Omnyx, Herman Miller, SUNY ESF, LabCorp, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), SUNY Oswego, Syracuse Center of Excellence (CoE) and others to promote a viable Central New York business occupancy through unified assets to attract entrepreneur efforts, industry and venture capital investment. “The CNYBAC will continue to stimulate creativity and innovation by providing its members with the essential resources and platform to do so” noted Dr. Corona. “We will continue to push the envelope and challenge the status quo to develop and nurture Bio/Med startups in Central New York.”
About the Author
Dr. Robert J. Corona is board certified in anatomic pathology, neuropathology and medical management and is a professor of medicine, family medicine and emergency medicine. He is the John Bernard Henry professor of pathology, chairman of pathology and laboratory medicine, clinical chief of pathology and laboratory medicine, residency program director, and director of neuropathology at University Hospital of Upstate Medical University. He is president of Upstate Pathologists Laboratories, LLC. Robert served as vice president of medical and scientific affairs and chief medical officer at Welch Allyn for 16 years. Prior to Welch Allyn, he was physician director of medical informatics, laboratory informatics, and telemedicine at SUNY Upstate Medical University. While at Upstate, he founded CareNet, a medical informatics and telemedicine program that won the Smithsonian Award for Innovation in Medicine. Robert received an MBA from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and received his DO from New York College of Osteopathic Medicine.
About SUNY Upstate
Headquarters: Syracuse, NY
SUNY Upstate Medical University is the only academic medical center in Central New York, and is the region’s largest employer. Upstate’s mission is to improve the health of the community through education (anchored by its four colleges — Medicine, Nursing, Health Professions, and Graduate Studies), biomedical research and healthcare. Upstate focuses on the most prevalent human diseases; the quest for treatments and cures is built upon expertise in structural, molecular, and systems biology. Upstate offers many clinical trials for patients. Upstate serves 1.8 million people, and includes Upstate University Hospital, Upstate University Hospital at Community General, Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital, and numerous satellite sites.
NYS Employees: 9,460