VA-TEAM is designed to provide innovators with specialized business frameworks and essential tools for successful translation of biomedical technologies from the lab (concept) to the market (clinic). Through this program, the VA fosters the development and commercialization of early-stage biomedical technologies by engaging investigators who are interested in better understanding the value of their innovation in addressing an unmet market need. The curriculum and customized mentoring provided by the VA-TEAM Program are intended to guide investigators as they assess the commercial viability and potential business opportunity for their innovation.
The VA-TEAM Program is a 48-week entrepreneurial training course, divided into two phases. It consists of two in-person events, weekly teleconferences, lectures, and coursework. Participants in the Program will develop a comprehensive set of core skills that will enable them to:
Evaluate whether a compelling unmet market need exists for their proposed solution
Assess whether there is a viable business opportunity that can be built to meet this need
Communicate the commercial value of their work to secure support from potential investors and other business partners.
Agencies that fund medical research are under increasing pressure to translate funded research projects to commercial entities. These commercial entities can obtain the necessary external capital needed to advance the technology to a point where it will change health care. The VA is no different in encountering these problems as a funding agency, and the problems are compounded by the VA’s unique mission to address the health care needs of Veterans. But this translational research process is long, complicated, and expensive. Further, translational researchers are not trained in the skills needed to identify and address these challenges. Finally, these problems are typically faced only after significant research progress has been made, meaning that any required changes require costly delays for revisions or new studies.
The VA has made tangible progress in advancing translational research, but now needs a way to embed the knowledge required for efficient technology transfer in the culture of VA researchers to increase efficiency, improve quality, and have a greater effect on the health care of Veterans. To accomplish this, the VA Translational Education and Mentoring (VA-TEAM) Center delivers a two-phase approach to educate VA’s translational research community and identify VA’s most promising translational research projects for experienced project management, advising, and mentoring.
The long-term objective is to create a lasting culture of translational focus for the VA research network. When investigators are taught about the translational pathway from beginning to end, it changes how they think about their research and their role in the translational ecosystem. With this knowledge, they improve how they approach all aspects of the research endeavor, from funding sources, grant writing, hiring students and staff, approaching mentors, and even selecting the conferences where they choose to present their work. Underlying these changes is an understanding of the fundamental necessity of all successful translational work: developing a valuable solution to a robust clinical need.
The immediate objective is to identify the VA’s most promising research technologies across all four research services, and provide them with focused expertise to identify the critical work remaining to make their projects attractive for investment.
To realize these objectives, VA-TEAM brings two things to the VA:
A soup-to-nuts online curriculum through a series of existing modules and workshops.
These modules walk research teams through the fundamentals of translational research from finding product-market fit to financing, all within the context of their own research projects, and with special emphasis on Veteran health and VA’s strategic priorities.
An advanced, more intensive program designed to drive selected late-stage translational research to the point where it is attractive for outside investment.
This is done through active project management and regular meetings with business advisors. The advisors also teach the teams through in-depth lectures to increase the understanding gained in the first phase.
VA-TEAM Center programming will advance VA’s translational research more quickly and efficiently through the translational process, ultimately leading to increased license activity and impact on Veteran health.