The November webinar provided a look into funding capabilities accessible through different programs.

Katie Pfaff

November 22, 2022

3 Min Read
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Image courtesy of agefotostock / Alamy Stock Photo

Advocacy group, MedTech Color, and NIH outlined existing initiatives and programs that seek to increase access to capital for medical device innovators and entrepreneurs in a recent webinar meeting. The discussed funding can provide opportunities for entrepreneurs, including women and people of color, to advance research and development of their medtech devices.

A collaboration between MedTech Color and NIH helps to advance the former’s core objectives that seek to bring more individuals of color into medtech and help them stay in the sector. “We have a simple mission at MedTech Color,” said Kwame Ulmer, founder and executive director of MedTech Color. “We are a nonprofit that wants to advance the representation of persons of color in the medical device industry, and we define the medical device industry broadly as traditional medical devices, digital device solutions, and diagnostics.”

The November webinar provided a broad view of the funding capabilities accessible through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR), rebranded recently as “America’s Seed Fund.” The seed fund has earmarked $1.2 billion of NIH funding to help US small businesses complete development and research toward commercialization.

“We see ourselves as de-risking in that early stage, supporting the proof of concept and research and development necessary to get you to market, or in the vast majority of our cases, actually it’s to get you to a partner or investor who can help take that innovation to the marketplace,” said Stephanie Fertig, moderator of the session and HHS Small Business Program Lead of Small Business Education and Entrepreneurial Development at the NIH. She also pointed out that the funding is non-dilutive capital and funding awards are not a loan.

There are 24 different centers and institutes within NIH that have small business programs, according to Fertig, each with different focus and mission-based goals. Some of these include National Institute of Neurologic Disorders and Stroke, National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Certain areas have larger budgets or have budgets for specific topics. The primary difference between the SBIR and STTR is that SBIR allows for research institution partnership, while the STTR requires partnership with a US research institution, according to Fertig.

Funding is awarded based on phases, which are not associated with clinical trial nomenclature. These phases refer to phase 1: feasibility, and phase 2: full research and development. Applications are made per phase, or an application for funding can be made to “fast track” which combines phases 1 and 2. Details and a step-by-step description that walks would-be applicants through the process is accessible online.

Discussion of the seed fund also included process recommendations, such as reaching out to a program officer to discuss any questions before applying and continuing to communicate questions through the process. Fertig suggested reaching out to [email protected] with a description of a planned proposal, if unsure of which center is the right one to contact, or with questions about the proposal.

“If you are trying to decide between two institutes or centers, don’t be afraid to reach out to both program officers, copy them on the same email,” Fertig said. “We will work it out. We all work together to make sure that people get to the right place.”

Many applicants may not be selected at their first attempt, but they are encouraged to apply again, Fertig said. Applicants receive a review report and can make changes to their proposal for their next application.

A recording of the webinar meeting can be accessed here.

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