Madison, Wis. — UW Health has launched its new business and innovation accelerator, Isthmus Project.
The program’s goal is to provide a front door for health system innovators – whether they be faculty physicians, pharmacists, residents, nurses, staff or others – to seek support for their creative ideas and projects that aim to achieve better health outcomes or to solve problems facing UW Health patients, providers and the health system but that are also scalable to create value beyond UW Health and UW-Madison, according to Thomas “Rock” Mackie, Isthmus Project director, and UW Health chief innovation officer.
“An isthmus is a bridge between two land masses,” he said. “Like an isthmus, our program is a bridge connecting an idea or innovation to the marketplace or bedside.”
The Isthmus Project is supported by UW Health and the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, and is located in University Hospital, 600 Highland Ave.
The program works like a traditional business incubator or accelerator, where entrepreneurs with an idea approach the program with an idea, but without knowledge of how to bring their ideas to reality. The accelerator would then offer services like business planning, instruction on how to access seed funding or making connections with industry.
The Isthmus Project already has several projects in the works, Mackie said. He expects to have six to 12 projects going on at one time for about one to two years per project.
Isthmus Project, a subsidiary of UW Health, has four primary partners that have agreed to provide their services including the School of Medicine and Public Health, Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, WiSolve and the Law and Entrepreneurship Clinic. Many more partners are expected to be added, Mackie said.
“We want to provide the most comprehensive set of tools for our innovators,” he said. “For them to truly thrive, they need the best avenues available to make that happen.”
Mackie is a well-known member of Madison’s biotechnology sector as a researcher, entrepreneur and investor whose list of innovations and companies includes founding Geometrics and TomoTherapy (incubated at UW Health), investing in and conducting research for Shine Medical Technologies, investing in Wisconsin Brewing and many more.
Before and during his long career in company-building and investing, Mackie was a faculty member at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in medical physics and human oncology. He began as an assistant professor in 1989 and concluded his academic career as professor in 2011.
Mackie, who is also a professor emeritus of medical physics and engineering at UW, was the director of medical engineering at the Morgridge Institute for Research in Madison from 2010 to 2014. In addition to his investments in local biotechnology companies, Mackie also sits on the board of several other companies and institutions.