READE-IONM and its Path to Commercialization

The Realtime Evaluation for Adverse Events using Intraoperative Neurophysiological Monitoring (READE-IONM) team has built a machine learning (ML) algorithm, which can continuously review electroencephalography (EEG) data in real-time during surgery to detect stroke. Diagnosis of stroke in real-time will help physicians offer approved lifesaving therapies for patients.

We connected with Parthasarathy D. Thirumala, MD, of Pitt to get his perspective on the commercialization side of the team’s research and to learn about what it takes to build knowledge and skills on the business side in order to bring technology to market.

What programs did you get involved with to help you learn more and build skills around the business side of commercializing your technology?

The First Gear program at Pitt, and the NSF I Corps ® program were very helpful in learning to build a business.

Why did you go after these specific programs?

First Gear and NSF I corps programs both encouraged our team to do customer discovery. This activity helped us understand the value proposition for each of our customer segments and develop a thesis on product market fit.

What was it like participating in these programs with a primarily clinical background?

A clinical background brings with it the bias that we know what the solution is for the problem we are experiencing ourselves. When we speak to other experts in the industry, it helps us who have the clinical background realize that there may be additional, similar problems and how our solution may serve them.

What topics were most helpful to learn about?

Talking to customers in order to learn how to interact, engage, and understand their pain points and unmet needs.

Do you now feel more confident about next steps for you and your research team when it comes to translating your findings to real-world application? 

Our team feels as though we know what our various customer segments are looking for when they buy or agree to support a product. We have conducted over 140 interviews with stakeholders in the field including speaking to neurophysiologists, anesthesiologists, cardiologists, hospital administrators, quality managers, and insurance managers.

Do you have any advice for other researchers hoping to follow a similar path?

Many research ideas fail to reach commercial potential because the teams end up building products that, ultimately, nobody wants to buy. Participating in the First Gear and NSF I corps programs helps teams find the value proposition and develop a method to deliver and capture value. This is critical to build a scalable business model and a successful venture.