Providing Tomorrow's Medicine Today

01/27/15

Dr. Marvin Slepian, University of Arizona professor of cardiology, knows how to bridge the gap between the bench and the bedside.

Slepian has made the connection between creative entrepreneurship and significant health care issues to innovate and deliver solutions, such as the artificial heart, that enhance and save lives.

In his latest venture, he will help extend the linkages between UA research and the public as director of the Arizona Center for Accelerated Biomedical Innovation.

The center, also known as ACABI, will help researchers form collaborations, find applications for new discoveries, develop their technologies and access resources to move their innovations forward. It will focus primarily on the development of translational biomedical technologies.

"ACABI is a 'creativity engine' that will fuel translational research at the UA," Slepian said. "It will maximize the value of University research. It will translate interesting discoveries into real, practical value, and it will be an economic engine to drive new startups and new corporate efforts in Arizona."

ACABI will focus its efforts on addressing unmet needs in health care. Slepian said some areas ACABI will work to address include hospital re-admission rates for common diseases, big data management, health care delivery efficiency, heart failure, diabetes and its complications, obesity and eating disorders, aging and mobility, hypertension and asthma.

The center will address these critical areas by developing solutions such as wearable technologies, new drug therapies, medical interventions and point-of-care diagnostic systems.

"The other side of ACABI, in addition to addressing unmet needs, is the science side," Slepian said. "We will go around the University and find out from scientists, 'What are you working on?' It's a way to bring together fields that would not normally talk to each other."

Slepian said that ACABI "aligns itself beautifully with Never Settle," the UA's strategic and academic business plan that calls for an increase in University research on topics such as population health, precision health and health care disparities.

Throughout his career, Slepian has crossed into multiple disciplines. In addition to being a cardiologist at the UA Sarver Heart Center, he also is associate department head of biomedical engineering at the UA, director of interventional cardiology at the UA Medical Center and a McGuire Scholar in the Eller College of Management.

He is a co-founder of SynCardia Systems Inc., the world's first and only FDA-approved total artificial heart provider, and PolyNova, a startup grown out of collaboration between the UA and Stony Brook University, as well as several other medical device companies.

His experience in bringing inventions to market should serve him well as ACABI director, said David AllenTech Launch Arizona vice president.

"He represents a nexus of many of the UA's emerging strengths, including biomedical engineering, translational medicine and technology commercialization," Allen said.

Allen said that TLA, the UA's commercialization unit, will work in close partnership with ACABI.

"ACABI will collaborate closely with TLA, as the center will be maturing inventions and readying them for introduction into the commercial marketplace," Allen said.

The innovations developed by ACABI eventually will be used to improve and save the lives of people across Arizona and the world, said Dr. Joe G.N. "Skip" Garcia, UA senior vice president for health sciences and interim dean of the UA College of Medicine – Tucson.

Garcia said ACABI will allow the UA to make a greater impact on communities through its research.

"ACABI is key not only to innovative approaches that will provide 'tomorrow's medicine today' for patients in Arizona, the Southwest and the nation, but also is integral to our efforts at the Arizona Health Sciences Center to expedite research consistent with the UA's focus on innovation and creating impact through translational technologies," Garcia said.

For Slepian, it's another opportunity to build a bridge — one that connects academic research with practical applications.

"If you think about it, universities are traditionally very academic places," Slepian said. "Universities have come around to the idea that its good to translate research into more practical uses. ... The idea behind ACABI is to be a catalytic mechanism to really advance and drive translational activities." 

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