Media > Training future health entrepreneurs at Barcelona hospitals following Stanford model

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Date: 19th. May 2015

Training future health entrepreneurs at Barcelona hospitals following Stanford model

d·HEALTH Barcelona seeks graduates or PhDs in engineering, design, business administration or life sciences for upcoming edition


Barcelona, 19 May 2015. The health entrepreneurs and innovators of the future aren’t being trained in classrooms, but in operating and emergency rooms. Barcelona is home to one of just four European biodesign programs inspired by the Stanford University fellowship, in which fellows identify business ideas while participating in everyday operations at top hospitals in the city, like Hospital Clínic, Sant Joan de Déu and Institut Guttmann. The Barcelona program Design Health Barcelona (d·HEALTH Barcelona), promoted by Biocat to foster innovation and entrepreneurship in the biomedical arena, has begun the admissions process to select new fellows for the third edition of the program, which will begin in January 2016 and is geared towards graduates or PhDs in the fields of engineering, design, business or life sciences.

In 2001, Stanford University created the first program in biodesign, a unique way of innovating in medical technology in which students go through a clinical immersion in hospitals to detect unmet clinical needs "in situ", which later serve as a base to design new products or services to develop over the course of the program. Stanford has exported this methodology to other countries. There are only 4 programs in Europe that offer this discipline: in Dublin (Ireland), Aarhus (Denmark), Stockholm (Sweden) and Barcelona.

The d·HEALTH Barcelona fellows break into multidisciplinary teams that experience a full innovation cycle over the nine months of the program, from identifying the needs in hospitals through design and prototyping of a feasible solution to the search for funding. Each team spends two months at one of Barcelona’s top hospitals and shadows medical personnel and patients to observe and take note of any unmet needs that could become a new product or service. In the first two editions of the program more than 2,000 needs were identified.

Generating companies and entrepreneurs

Since 2001, the Stanford program has led to the creation of 37 companies that have generated more than $325 millions in investment and products that have been used to treat more than 275,000 patients. Of the three teams of fellows from the first edition of Design Health Barcelona (d·HEALTH Barcelona), two are already working on their own business project.

One of them is usMIMA, the company that won the 2014 Bioemprenedor XXI award, which has just closed its first round of seed capital and this summer will launch a belt-like device that simulates a colon massage to combat chronic constipation in patients with spinal injuries and multiple sclerosis. The team detected this business idea while doing their clinical immersion at Institut Guttmann. "Patients told us they had gotten used to not being able to walk but not being able to control their bowels lowered their quality of life. That changed my point of view as to the needs we had to resolve,” explains microbiologist Dr. Markus Wilhelmsen, a fellow from the first edition of d·HEALTH Barcelona and co-founder of usMIMA with Marc Benito, Ángel Calzada and Dr. Inmaculada Herrero.

The other team of fellows from d·HEALTH Barcelona already working on their business project is made up of Catalan Arnau Valls and American Susan Feitoza. After their two-month immersion at Hospital Sant Joan de Déu, they decided to develop a medical device for neonatal and pediatric ICU patients. “Although I studied Communications Engineering, I had always wanted to apply my training in the health arena. Developing useful solutions to people’s problems is highly gratifying,” explains Valls. They expect to set up a company based on this project, called Kocoon. The second class of fellows that will graduate this June are currently working on projects focusing on breastfeeding and urinary and fecal incontinence.

A postgraduate program to change the world

d·HEALTH Barcelona is a 9-month, full-time postgraduate program that applies a unique learning methodology. Biodesign programs are based on the training-by-doing methodology: learning while working in order to make students into entrepreneurs and foster the creation of innovative companies that address unresolved global challenges.

The fellows experience the whole innovation process, from identifying needs in hospitals through designing and prototyping a marketable product, to presenting it to investors, always in their team and simulating real-life situations. At the same time, they also gain knowledge in medicine and business development, as well as skills in areas like design thinking and creative leadership, through classes and workshops given by more than 50 global experts from Stanford, Kaos Pilot –the Danish training program that has become a global benchmark for its disruptive methodology- and MIT, among others.

d·HEALTH Barcelona is an initiative of Biocat, the organization that coordinates and promotes the life sciences sector in Catalonia, with support from Sanofi and collaboration from the University of Barcelona, Barcelona Science Park, and Danish school KaosPilot. Applications are now being accepted for the third edition of d·HEALTH Barcelona. The program is geared towards young people with degrees or PhDs in medicine, the life sciences, engineering, design or business who are interested in entrepreneuring in the health sector. The admissions requirements are available here.

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