Katie Reuther on The Future of Penn Health-Tech and Penn’s Thriving Innovation Ecosystem

When it first launched in 2017, Penn Health-Tech (PHT) was an experiment to see whether bringing engineering expertise into contact with clinicians could translate into something that helps everyday people.

Now five years old, PHT is well known for turning innovative ideas across the health system into useful technologies and products that solve problems and advance health care. After supporting 60 different teams and providing $2 million in funding on top of hands-on project management, development expertise, and other critical resources, alumni of PHT have secured $50 million in follow-on funding from sources ranging from government grants to corporate investments.

Over the years, PHT has produced a number of maturing ventures like PCI startup Osciflex, a specialized compression sleeve for preventing deep-vein thrombosis in hospital patients. Osciflex was invented by Mark Kahn, MD, Director of the Center for Vascular Biology, and John Welsh, of the Institute for Medicine and Engineering, and is currently undergoing clinical evaluation.

Another successful PHT venture is RightAir, a wearable ventilator device for those with COPD. This device, which was invented by Jacob Brenner, Penn iCorps participant and faculty at Penn Medicine, recently received a $1 million investment from local venture capital fund BioAdvance.

PHT’s portfolio of projects are representative of Penn’s strength as an innovation hub. In fact, executive director of PHT, Katie Reuther, PhD, MBA, said that it was Penn’s strong innovation ecosystem that drew her to the role. “The University of Pennsylvania and Penn Medicine clearly had the ingredients necessary for transformative health care innovation and technology development, which includes world-class clinicians and researchers across engineering, medicine, and Penn’s entire campus. It had strong leadership and support at the university’s highest levels — deans, chief scientific officers, health system leadership and the vice provost for research,” she explained. “I also saw substantial investment in resources to support these efforts, including technology transfer and commercialization expertise through the Penn Center for Innovation and a track record of driving and enabling innovation within health care through the Center for Health Care Innovation.”

In terms of future planning, PHT’s focus has been on building and expanding our team and community, and developing a strategic plan to map our path forward.

“Our vision is that both our current innovators and the innovators developed here will advance health care, improve lives, and benefit society everywhere,” said Reuther. “To enable that vision, we are looking forward to formalizing training opportunities for early-career innovators (such as students, resident physicians, post-doctoral fellows, and trainees at all levels) and cultivating industry and commercial partnerships. We want to ensure that when a clinician, staff member, or engineer has an idea or napkin sketch for a solution, they come to us and we help them bring their idea to life.”

To learn more about PHT and read Reuther’s in-depth interview, go here.

Katie Reuther, PhD, MBA, Executive Director of of Penn Health-Tech
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