One of UC San Diego’s newest entrepreneurial programs, Blue LINC, aims to train healthcare innovators. President and co-founder Kevin Jubbal (KJ) explains the inspiration and expertise behind the not-for-credit opportunity.
What is Blue LINC?
KJ: Blue LINC is a biomedical incubator that provides graduate students from medicine, business, engineering, and design with the opportunity to solve clinical problems and create healthcare startups. Our pilot program is launching in January, lasting through June, and culminates in a Demo Day where teams pitch their projects to local investors to obtain seed funding. Blue LINC provides a structured series of classes twice per week, prototyping space, regular mentorship, and resources to help teams achieve their goals. We are happy to provide this opportunity free of cost to students.
What led to the creation of this incubator?
KJ: I’m very interested in innovation in healthcare as it is one of the most powerful ways to influence patient care. When I was a first-year medical student, a few of my classmates and I co-founded a student interest group called the Future of Medicine. As I progressed along in medical school, I learned about biomedical incubators where interdisciplinary collaboration was used as a powerful tool to solve healthcare problems and create startups. That sounded exciting. I looked into UCSD’s opportunities, and nothing really fit the bill. I figured, if someone’s going to start it, why not me? I started reading up on innovation literature, drafted a written proposal, and sought out mentors. I reached out to fellow graduate students to build a team. There are now six co-founders, including myself. The team includes two MD students (myself and Neil Panjwani), three bioengineering PhD students (Gaurav Agrawal, Nickolas Forsch, and Vish Ramesh), and one MBA (Gaurvika Nayyar).
Have you worked with any advisors?
KJ: We began speaking to schools and programs, including engineering, medicine, business, and design. All of the faculty we met with were supportive of the idea, but we needed someone who could carve out time to help push the project forward. Dr. Alexander Norbash, Chair of Radiology, stepped up to the challenge and became our faculty champion. Dr. Norbash has been crucial in the success of Blue LINC. He has prior experiences in healthcare innovation and brings a lot of valued expertise. Dr. Garrett Smith, a UCSD alum and serial entrepreneur, will be our program moderator in January and has also created similar programs across the world. We are very fortunate to have him on board, and he has helped shaped Blue LINC as well. The Office of Innovation and Commercialization was actually the first place I approached and Greg Horowitt [Director of Innovation] has supported us since the very beginning. There are several other individuals who have played large roles in the success of Blue LINC across the different graduate school programs.
There are also opportunities for clinicians to submit problems they observe in the healthcare setting that they want to have solved as potential ideas. They can also choose to be one of the team advisors.
Does Blue LINC have a particular meaning?
KJ: There’s a concept in startups of blue ocean vs. red ocean strategy, and we liked the idea of limitless opportunities and carving out novel markets in blue ocean strategy. Also, UCSD’s colors are blue and yellow. We used “linc” because we’re linking together students from the different disciplines of medicine, engineering, business, and design to form multidisciplinary teams. As an acronym, it also represents “Learn,” “Innovate,” “Network,” “Collaborate.”
Who can apply to the program?
KJ: Any graduate student at UCSD is encouraged to apply, particularly if they have a background in business, engineering, medicine, or design. That being said, it’s not limited to those groups. We have had people ask, “I’m an undergrad, can I still apply?” Absolutely.
Do people need a team or an idea to apply?
KJ: No. The first several weeks of the program are focused on needs-finding, because finding the problem to solve is a very important part of innovation. If students have ideas, they can submit them, but we don’t require a prior idea. After we select members, we’ll be forming teams in early January.
Ultimately what we are looking for are people who are passionate and driven about innovation in medicine. That’s part of the reason we have it as a not-for-credit course. We want people who are going to be good team members, people who are open to new ideas, who are willing to put in the time and effort. Having some experience with innovation or entrepreneurial activities before Blue LINC is preferred, but not required.
What are your goals?
KJ: The goal of Blue LINC is not necessarily to create X number of startups. What we’re really trying to push is for students to learn the process of healthcare and med-tech innovation and entrepreneurship, so they can take what they learned forward and continue to innovate and contribute to healthcare in the future.
Note: To learn more, visit Blue LINC.
WRITTEN BY LYNSEY FITZPATRICK | JANUARY 5, 2017