CCA Pitch Day: Planning for Pitch Day, Part 2

In our first blog of the Pitch Day series, we introduced the CCA’s Pitch Day and upcoming Tenth Anniversary. In part two of the Pitch Day series, we highlight the planning stage for Pitch Day. The CCA/sciVelo team has helped Pitt researchers develop project proposals since the Center’s founding in 2015, working closely with the Innovation Institute to continue the translation of exciting and meaningful research. The Center for Machine Learning and Health operates in a similar capacity to guide research teams led by investigators from CMU.


Pitch Day Part 2 Featured ImageThe preparations leading up to Pitch Day are key to a successful event. Elements include a written proposal, commercial translation roadmap, office hours meetings, and presentation drafts all with the support of dedicated CCA staff that play an active role in shaping the pitches.


The Proposal

A written proposal is the first stop on the road to PHDA Pitch Day with Pitt-led research teams. The PHDA team (through its CCA partner) seeks applications for projects that move early-stage research toward clinical and commercial translation via technology licensing and new company formation. Projects are typically twelve months in duration with a focus on unmet needs in healthcare that can be solved with digital health technologies. The best fit project has a novel, well-targeted solution with demonstrable scientific, technologic, and/or market differentiation.

After a subset of the written proposals are selected to move forward in the process, the CCA helps each team construct a commercial translation roadmap. This takes the written proposal a little further, documenting the target market and specific competitors in the space, understanding resources needed to bring the solution to market, identifying barriers to adoption, and estimating regulatory hurdles/approval timeline (as needed). The commercial translation roadmap evaluates the team’s intellectual property (IP) status and IP strategy to determine how strongly it could be defended against other groups attempting to develop similar technology.

With respect to the roadmap mentioned above, Andrew Brown, Assistant Director of Commercial Translational Programs, says,  “We’ve found that understanding market, regulatory, clinical adoption, and IP considerations early on in the translational development period can help create a more efficient project plan. Many of these dimensions that are traditionally considered ‘business deliverables’ can, in fact, greatly inform the experimental design and data interpretation of technical milestones. Ensuring that experiments to answer critical scientific questions also lead to answering commercialization questions, which can accelerate CCA projects’ path to clinical impact.”

CCA Architects and Associates work individually with each team to create a Pitch (usually a PowerPoint presentation) that clearly communicates the problem statement, likely path to clinical and commercial impact, and information that proactively addresses some typical questions from the audience. The proposal teams also meet with subject matter experts to review their Pitch material, ask questions, and receive constructive feedback on current drafts.

As CCA’s Senior Program Manager, Kathrin Gassei, says, “For many teams, this is the first time a researcher may be asked to present their work outside the familiar scientific format. When working with the teams, the sciVelo-CCA Associate’s first goal is to gain a deep understanding of the clinical and scientific problem, and then to carefully guide the team during the six-week pitch preparation. This collaborative process is the key to a crisp and compelling pitch.”

A strong pitch will include a problem statement, magnitude of the problem (how many people experience the problem, how expensive is treatment, etc.), proposed solution, how the solution will impact the size of the problem, potential barriers to impacting the problem, potential barriers to achieving the proposed solution, and the team’s goal for commercialization. Practice is key in determining how to present this information to an audience in a concise, articulate manner. Most pitches are time-limited and proposal teams must convey the important details, allowing the PHDA team to make an informed decision.

In Part 3 of this blog series, we’ll learn about the evolution of Pitch Day and what’s to come.

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