Collaborative Healthcare Innovation in the Innovation Quarter

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drone shot of winston salem innovation quarter
Five Ways Wake Forest Innovations is Improving Healthcare

COVID may have slowed down the world, but it accelerated innovation. That’s especially true for Wake Forest Innovations, the commercialization arm of Wake Forest Baptist Health, which sits on the fifth floor of the redeveloped Bailey Power Plant.

WFI’s mission is to turn innovative projects developed throughout the Wake Forest academic system into commercially scaled products and services available to the public and patients. The Wake Forest Innovations team acts as a gateway between industry and the faculty and staff of Wake Forest Baptist Health, serving as a resource for navigating and simplifying product-focused partnerships. They help advance innovative new technologies, medical breakthroughs, and access to preclinical and clinical research opportunities across realms. 

WFI executed more commercial partnerships over the last year than during any other year since its inception in 1980, triggered by the passage of the Bayh-Dole Act. This federal law broadly enables academic institutions to commercialize intellectual property resulting from federally sponsored research.

Many of the ideas supported by WFI changed how Winston-Salem weathered the pandemic—like Mask the City—and now even more healthcare innovation is coming down its pipeline. 

Here’s a list of some of WFI’s game-changing projects over the past year:

1. Mask the City

Women distributing masks at a Mask the City event in Winston-Salem, NC.

At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Wake Forest Innovations served as a negotiator and coordinator of materials for PPE masks, including the Kitsbow and Renfro masks vital to Winston-Salem’s Mask the City initiative. This project was no easy task because of the mask’s “face-hugging” design which contours around the nose and chin. 

Ken Russell, director of technology Innovation at WFI, helped identify and source the initial materials, a critically important aspect of the design because a specific composition was necessary to prevent aerosol transmission. John Druga, licensing director of commercialization technology, negotiated with local companies like Renfro to manufacture the mask at scale to meet a growing public health need.  

2. CaseStacks

Radiologists study x-rays and scans.

F. Scott Jones and Kevin Hiatt, two entrepreneurial radiology residents at Wake Forest School of Medicine, founded a startup that provides training for radiologists. CaseStacks offers courses and 1,400+ interactive cases covering “must-know” diagnoses for this specialty while using efficient computer algorithm-based learning for residents and medical schools.

WFI negotiated and executed the license on behalf of the institution and helped secure the images and regulatory approvals needed to advance and scale commercially. This educational tool leads to increased understanding and better retention rates, especially during a time when virtual learning is essential.   

3. Postbiotics

Lactobacillus paracasei D3.5

Dr. Harriom Yadav and colleagues at Wake Forest School of Medicine discovered that heat-killed lactobacillus paracasei D3.5 improves leaky gut, decreases inflammation and enhances insulin sensitivity and cognition. This probiotic contains the nutrient lipoteichoic acid, which appears to be responsible for providing notable physiological benefits to its host, including prolonging lifespans—meaning they seem to keep animals younger for longer!

WFI helped secure the intellectual property and helped to form a startup to advance the technology. Now, Postbiotics, a premium nutrition supplement company, is advancing this additive to a premium food supplement certified by the FDA as a GRAS (generally regarded as safe) food product.

4. Wake Health Inpatient Rounding List (WHIRL)

Healthcare provider sitting at desk working on computer.

The Wake Health Inpatient Rounding List (WHIRL) is an app that compresses patient information into an efficient clinical overview, allowing healthcare professionals to print out necessary details of each of their assigned patients on one condensed sheet. It is customizable by each healthcare provider, meaning that a surgical nurse and a neurologist can select information about patients according to their requirements. 

Before WHIRL, blank sheets of paper were completed by hand, which was a common source of error. The app had clear benefits, but commercializing software is tricky. To advance WHIRL to a commercially sustained product, WFI oversaw the negotiation and execution of two transactions—a license focused on commercializing the software and a co-development agreement to transition the software to the platform used by commercial partner Illumicare. This beneficial software is used daily by hundreds of providers and is now available on Illumicare’s Smart Ribbon, as well as in Epic App Market.

5. Xoder Technologies, LLC 

Xoder Technologies laboratory.

As electrons jump from atom to atom, they carry energy with them. That transfer of energy, also known as a redox reaction, is what makes all life on earth possible—from photosynthesis to the battery that powers your laptop.

The mission of Xoder Technologies is to promote human health and quality of life by providing redox expertise and technologies to support basic, translational and clinical investigations aimed at disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment. Wake Forest University School of Medicine and Wake Forest University faculty Leslie Poole, Cristina Furdui and Stephen King founded Xoder to utilize redox reactions—particularly oxygen electron transfer across atoms—to improve medicine and healthcare.

Learn more about Wake Forest Innovations.