Poster Paper: Evaluating Biomedical Research Translation Programs

Saturday, November 10, 2018
Exhibit Hall C - Exhibit Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Amanda C Walsh, Alan O'Connor, Ginger Rothrock, Dawn Ohse, Troy Scott, Benjamin Anderson and Meaghan McGrath, RTI International, Inc.

Academic institutions provide rich environments for groundbreaking basic biomedical research. However, researchers in these settings often face significant barriers to translating this research, including insufficient commercialization gap funding, a lack of commercialization knowledge and understanding, and a lack of access to technology development and commercialization resources. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Centers for Accelerated Innovations (NCAI) Program and the NIH Research Evaluation and Commercialization Hubs (REACH) Program were each formed to reduce these barriers and accelerate the effective translation of biomedical research being carried out at academic institutions. Each program provides resources to three centers or hubs throughout the United States, with the goal of supporting three annual cohorts of researchers at each Center/Hub.

This paper describes the framework and approach for an ongoing evaluation of the value of the NCAI and REACH programs in reducing barriers to the translation of basic biomedical research discoveries. We focus on the iterative process by which we are carrying out the evaluation and suggest best practices for collecting data, capturing innovation, measuring impacts, and identifying actionable and timely recommendations.

The evaluation is focused on determining whether supported technologies are more likely to enter the commercialization pipeline, mature, and be licensed than would otherwise be expected. The evaluation is also focused on whether researchers interacting with the centers/hubs acquire new knowledge about commercialization or develop new attitudes towards the commercialization process and become more likely to participate in commercialization activities going forward.

The NCAI and REACH programs were funded at different intervals and the evaluation is being conducted at approximately the midcourse through the end of the NCAI program and at the beginning through the midcourse of the REACH program. Our work is primarily a process evaluation due to program timing and the long technology lifecycle associated with biomedical innovations, although early outcomes are being assessed. The evaluation also includes recommendations for data collection methods to be used for subsequent outcome and impact evaluations.

A key goal of the evaluation is to maintain an optimal balance between collecting enough information to carry out a rigorous assessment of program performance, and minimizing the burden placed upon the Center/Hub administrators and innovators. Towards this aim, we have leveraged the overlapping timelines of the NCAI and REACH programs to update our data collection processes based on information gleaned from earlier rounds of data collection.

We have tailored a mix of both quantitative and qualitative data collection to assess the varying ways in which the centers/hubs affect change. The major data collection methods for the evaluation include a review of documents, the acquisition of program metrics from each Center/Hub, surveys of innovators in each region’s biomedical innovation ecosystem, and interviews of NIH staff, Center/Hub leaders, and funded innovators. Given the small number of projects that will have been, or will be going, through the NCAI and REACH programs by the end of the evaluation period, qualitative assessments and perceptions of program performance by ecosystem stakeholders are especially important.