Davidson Foundation grant helps Henry Ford collaborate with Israeli innovators

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Scott Dulchavsky, M.D., Ph.D. and CEO of the Henry Ford Innovation Institute, wants to improve health care patients’ experience in big and small ways. Established in 2011, the Innovation Institute investigates and develops new ideas that improve health care — from a better hospital gown to complex data analysis that can predict who will become sick.

Henry Ford Innovation Institute

A grant of $1.3 million from the William Davidson Foundation will advance the Institute’s core programs, which include developing new healthcare technology through corporate collaborations, education and training for healthcare innovators, and global licensing of its “know-how” for overseas hospitals. The Davidson Foundation has supported these efforts to bring promising healthcare improvement ideas to fruition since the Institute’s inception.

Dulchavsky described the Institute’s core programs as a “back-office factory” to help inventors design, test and market useful products. People with interesting ideas may come from Henry Ford Hospital staff, but also from auto companies and the College for Creative Studies. “The sweet spot is co-development. We’re a good lab,” he says.

The Innovations Institute is housed in a beautifully restored early 20th-century building on Henry Ford Hospital’s Detroit campus. Dozens of framed patents line the walls. “We have more than 100 patents, but it’s not a metric that we track. We want patents with value,” Dulchavsky says.

Also, he explains that today’s healthcare technology is frequently software-based and that patents are not as critical as first usage in the public marketplace.

In addition to core program funding, the Foundation has awarded the Institute up to $675,000 to work with Israeli startup companies to bring their products to the U.S. and other markets. This is part of the Innovation Institute’s Global Technology Development Program.

Ethan Davidson and Karen Davidson of the Davidson Foundation flank Dr. Scott Dulchavsky, head of the Henry Ford Innovation Institute

“We need to cultivate ideas and entrepreneurial talent here while tapping into innovations from around the world to continue Southeastern Michigan’s revitalization,” explains Darin McKeever, chief program and strategy officer for the William Davidson Foundation. “Our relationship with their team is a long and rewarding one, as is our interest in strengthening Israel.

“We’re especially delighted to support a pilot program that facilitates collaboration between Henry Ford Innovations and Israeli inventors and entrepreneurs so that they can bring their best products to market — and do it here.”

Dulchavsky has made six trips to Israel, meeting with representatives of Start-Up Nation Central Ltd., an Israeli nonprofit he describes as “a clearinghouse for all of the entrepreneurial activity in Israel.” Start-Up Nation has hosted him while he met with Israeli entrepreneurs and considered hundreds of ideas for health-related products and innovations.

Israeli Innovation

Israel is respected worldwide for its technology-based industries and entrepreneurial culture with a high level of investment in research and development. It is home to more startups than any location except Silicon Valley.

Dr. Dulchavsky brainstorming in Israel with collaborators

Dulchavsky says Israeli innovators and entrepreneurs are particularly strong in cybersecurity and digital health, which encompass a wide range of patient- and health provider-oriented technologies. These include smart phone applications that can measure wakefulness and stress as well as advanced digital analysis to learn more from X-rays and other imaging and medical tests. Zebra Medical Vision is one of the high-tech Israeli companies working with the Henry Ford Innovation staff.

“We recently completed a pilot study looking at the ability of Zebra’s software solution to diagnose osteoporosis with routine CT scans done for other indications,” Dulchavsky says. “The pilot showed that their solution was very reliable in the data sets we shared with them. The pilot resulted in a well-received national presentation, and it will be published later this year.” He anticipates agreements with other Israeli startups during 2017.

Developing and testing new medical devices and other technology can be costly, creating a barrier to market entry. The Henry Ford Innovation Institute can assist entrepreneurs in the development process, offering its comprehensive healthcare knowledge and strong brand.

“We are trying to establish a footprint in healthcare innovation here in Detroit,” he says.

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