UC BRAID NSF I-Corps Program – Life Sciences and Healthcare

Gain market and business acumen at no/low cost while improving your chances of funding

March 26, 2015 

The UC/NIH-partnered NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Program for Life Sciences and Healthcare teaches scientists and clinicians how to assess whether the idea or technology they have has a viable commercialization path. The focus of this course is on taking technologies from lab to market, where you can validate your idea for their prospects in the commercial world; this course serves as a gateway to obtaining funding from the NIH/ UC Center for Accelerated Innovation (CAI) and/or SBIR grant funding for further development of discoveries and development of the commercialization plan.

This class helps individual participants form teams (if they do not have one) and teams:

  • Gather data essential to a commercialization path before doing the science
  • Define clinical utility now, before spending millions of dollars
  • Identify financing vehicles before they're needed
  • Assess regulatory and other risks before you design and build

This seven-week course takes participants down the pathway to turning a technology from lab to market with a market-tested commercialization plan. You will use the lean launch-pad framework to develop a market/business model and talk to real prospects to see how they would use your technology/product. Each week will be a new adventure as you test another part of your business model and share this knowledge with the rest of the class. 

Why take this course?

This program will help your idea and technology move forward on the commercialization path. It will increase your score for the commercialization plan section of the UC CAI Technology Development Award, and increase the chance for STTR/SBIR funding or out-licensing. You will learn in the brief time period of the course who your potential customers are, what they value and how much they would pay for your technology. You can save years of effort and resources chasing after an idea or product that may not have a viable market.

The NSF I-Corps Program has been adopted at over 100 institutions nationwide. Close to 500 teams have taken the course. It has been adapted for Life Sciences and Healthcare, and is now offered for the first time via UC BRAID.

We are fortunate to offer this commercialization and entrepreneurship class to the biomedical UCs through an NSF grant (but you do not need an NSF grant to participate).

View participant testimonials here!

How does it work?

The course is taught as a flipped classroom, meaning class time is spent presenting what you learned through your week's interviews rather than hearing a lecture. You will interview 10 "customers" every week, ranging from physicians to consumers, to pharmaceutical and biotech companies, insurance companies and FDA consultants. Through these interactions, you will validate or invalidate parts of your business model, and identify the best path forward to commercialize your idea or technology. Lectures are available online to supplement the texts. 

Who is on a team?

Teams can be assembled any way that makes sense for the project. Some teams come from a lab or clinic, others are mixed and include people from the business community or another part of the university. Diversity of backgrounds strengthens a team. Mixing an engineer, MBA and clinician for a device has the potential for better learning, but the decision is yours. There are no roles on the team except for the team lead. Every team will be assigned a mentor by their campus from outside the team, who is not counted as a team member.

  • All teams must have 3-5 members. At least one member must have current affiliation at UC. Preference is given to teams with affiliation to one of the BRAID campuses: UC Davis, UCI, UCLA, UCSD, or UCSF.
  • Your venture can be in any life science/healthcare sector: therapeutics, diagnostics, devices or digital health.
  • Preference will be given to ventures targeting an indication in one of the areas covered by National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (heart, lung, and blood diseases and sleep disorders), and by National Institute of Drug Abuse (drug abuse and addiction), but other biomedical areas are also welcome. The organizers can help identify additional team members.

Course Dates:

In person at UCSF: June 8,9,10 and July 30, 31
3 hour weekly webinars: Late afternoon/evening hours, day of week TBD.

Time Commitment:

About 15 hours per week. The entire team must attend the beginning and ending sessions at UCSF and participate on all weekly webinars. There is no delegation after the team is formed (e.g. if a PI is on a team, s/he cannot substitute a postdoc for attendance; however, a PI does not have to be part of the team at its inception if it is led by the postdoc).

Application Process:

Please email ASAP with letter of interest and CV to Prof. Vish Krishnan

Application Deadline: 

Applications are due April 15, 2015.

Follow-up Phone/Skype/In person* Interviews: Week of April 14-21. Acceptances: Week of May 3

You can learn about the business model canvas, executive summary and more about Lean LaunchPad. Search for the UCSF Fall 2013 class for information on how to adapt the BMC to life sciences/healthcare.

Course fees:

Non-UC teams will be charged a small fee: rate to be determined. No fee for UC participants.

Small amount of travel funding is available to cover travel expenses on a competitive first-come first-served basis.


Professor Vish Krishnan, UCSD Rady School

Kanetaka Maki, PhD student