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University of Dayton, Wright State Research Institute, and Dayton hospitals funded a startup company to commercialize technology

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October 18-20, 2023 / Tucson, AZ
The annual summit for research institution gap fund and accelerator programs, including proof of concept programs, startup accelerators, and university venture funds

The Story

The major hospitals in Dayton are banding together to fund a company that will help commercialize health care technology.

The 28 hospitals of the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association are partnering with Cincinnati-based design firm Kaleidoscope Inc. to launch a business that will focus on commercializing health care technology from the hospitals, the Air Force Research Laboratory and others, said Bryan Bucklew, President and CEO of the hospital association.

It also will seek to attract health care technology work from Israel and connect with Kaleidoscope’s major clients.

The new business, called Ascend, has five employees now and will grow to 10 this year, and is looking for real estate space in downtown Dayton. It’s secured long-term funding from GDAHA, Premier Health, Kettering Health Network, Dayton Children’s Hospital and Kaleidoscope, said Jeff Journey, managing director of Ascend.

Bucklew said the starting funding provided is a “multi-million dollar commitment over the long term” but declined to release the exact amount. AFRL will also fund a researcher for the project.

The new company has massive potential for the Dayton region in creating new jobs and new spin-off companies. Health care is a booming industry with no signs of slowing down, so if the company is able to commercialize vital technologies, its growth is boundless.

The idea has been in the works for the past year, and Kaleidoscope and GDAHA have been working in the GDAHA offices downtown since January. Ascend is a for-profit enterprise with a board consisting of three officials from Kaleidoscope, as well as four representatives from local hospital groups.

“We think the community will be more healthy if there are other industries that join health care in the Dayton region with employment and impact,” Bucklew said.
Commercialization efforts have previously been led by the local universities and Air Force, but a for-profit company will better incentivize commercialization, he said.

The company will partner with University of Dayton Research Institute and Wright State Research Institute, who have been involved in the discussion setting up Ascend, Journey said. Ascend will also want to partner with local companies in marketing and branding, engineering, design and contract manufacturing as the new companies are formed and launched.

“It’s another great partnership with AFRL,” said Jeff Hoagland, president and CEO of the Dayton Development Coalition, which also is involved in the effort. “Our overall strategy is to set the strategy for the region, with advanced manufacturing, biosciences, IT, and this falls right into the bioscience side of things. As the strategy is being set, we have other groups that can help us implement this work.”
Ascend has four avenues to commercialize health care technology. It has already begun to identify potential projects with AFRL, Journey said. It will actively work with hospitals to identify innovations that have commercial potential. This as it works through the Dayton Region Israel Trade Alliance to bring biotech and health care businesses from Israel, and will also partner with Kaleidoscope clients, said Aaron Swick, innovation director of Ascend.

“There will be a constant need to bring in other people from outside, either consultants or businesses, as we develop these companies,” Journey said.

“There’s a lot of interest from them to co-develop products, or even to invest as we spin off these companies in the Dayton area and work with the local hospitals,” said Sean Barnett, president and medical director of Ascend.

Such avenues could include bio-sensors and similar technology AFRL and the 711th Human Performance Wing have studied that could have broader appeal in the commercial health care market, Journey said.

Ascend will not be a traditional incubator that facilitates ideas, Barnett said. The company will be able to go into the hospitals and find ideas, formulate them into commercial enterprises and spin out the companies directly, and it will own those companies and their intellectual property until they exit.

With that business model, the hospitals will be able to control what technology is developed and help ensure the companies that are spun off remain in the Dayton region, Barnett said.
Ascend will target 12-15 month development cycles for the new businesses, but each one will be different, Barnett said. It hopes to build a portfolio of three to five businesses quickly and continue growing thereafter.

The company will measure the economic impact, return on investment, jobs created and successful exits of its efforts, Barnett said. The officials declined to give exact targets but said they want to be positive in each category.

It’s hoped that Ascend will lead to new companies and businesses in the Dayton region, Bucklew said. For the hospitals, the venture could be a talent generator as major research commercialized and stays in town.

“We are investing and betting on ourselves,” Bucklew said. “That way we’re not relying on the state of Ohio, or the Third Frontier or federal grants. Our own innovation, technologies and drive. What we’re working on here is larger than the individual hospital networks, so the hospitals are working together.”
Dayton hospitals funded a startup company to commercialize technology from the U.S. Air Force – Dayton Business Journal.

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