UTS professor involved in Technion initiative

September 25, 2013 by J-Wire Staff
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A new international program in Biomedical Innovation and Entrepreneurship has been launched at the Technion in Haifa Israel developed and organised by Michael Wallach, a Technion Visiting Professor from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS).


Technion group

Technion group


Unlike other existing entrepreneurship courses which focus on what and how others have achieved, this program focused on the students coming up with innovative and pragmatic ideas in solving medical health problems which ultimately can be commercialised. The international nature of the program is ground breaking and at the cutting edge of the emerging field of global education.

“The importance of this initiative for Australia and Israel, especially the oft stated intention of the Commonwealth and NSW state governments to emulate Israel’s ‘start-up nation’ mentality should not be under-estimated,” said Technion Australia Executive Director, Ken Lander.

This pilot program was the culmination of five years of development by Professor Wallach who is the Chairman of the Technion Australia Academic Committee in NSW.

“We were proud to support it as part of our program to build meaningful relationships between the Technion and New South Wales. The involvement of a prestigious US University, Stanford, was a great asset as well to the program,” Mr. Lander said.

During the program, the students formed five mixed groups that were mentored using a novel, design thinking teaching approach to rapidly develop a new concept for their own original biomedical product. At the end of the course, the students pitched their very diverse and novel ideas for biomedical products.

There was an idea to develop an effective treatment for chronic fungal infections, a product for breast feeding mothers to be able to assess the quality of their milk, a new diagnostic tool for detecting metastatic cancer, a device to prevent falls of elderly people and finally a new catheter that resists bacterial infection alleviating the need to constantly replace them in patients.

The winning idea will shortly be selected by a panel of experts and will receive seed funding of $50,000 to take the idea through to the proof of concept stage at which point the Technion will decide whether to take it formally into its commercialisation technology transfer process.

The seed funding was part of a gift from the Graf family of Sydney to Technion Australia (New South Wales Division) and it also provided scholarships for the UTS students to attend the program.

A total of 20 graduate students participated in the program; 5 PhD students from UTS, Sydney, 4 from Stanford University Medical School, USA, and 11 Masters and PhD students from various faculties of the Technion.

The five UTS students were all competitively selected and came from diverse backgrounds and experience. They lived together with the Stanford students in the dorms on campus and established their own family atmosphere.

Apart from the coursework and intense studies, the students were also given lectures on Israeli history and culture, as well as trips to different parts of the country. Most of them had never been to Israel before and it was an eye opening experience for all of them.

The feedback from the students after the course was completed was extremely positive. A Technion student said that “This course has changed my life”. A student from UTS wrote, “I thoroughly enjoyed the Bio-Innovation course at the Technion. The lecturers were fantastic. They were approachable, knowledgeable, and their lectures were stimulating and relevant to the tasks we were set each day. Obtaining advice from real-life entrepreneurs, patent attorneys and business analysts made the experience particularly valuable for me as an early career researcher and aspiring entrepreneur.”

Prof. Wallach said, “I see myself primarily as an educator. I want the students to gain experience and think creatively and innovatively in a way they haven’t thought before. This will contribute to their career development especially when many young scholars are unable to find a job in academia. This experience gives them the option of switching to entrepreneurship. Through global collaboration, we hope to facilitate the opening up of new career paths and improve the success rate of biomedical research.”

This program will be run annually at each of the participating institutions and next year it will be held in Sydney at UTS.

The program was also by Technion Australia in NSW and the Stanford University Medical School, Palo Alto, California.

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