With Innovation Fund dollars, new medical 'GPS' sets course to personalize patient care

University of Chicago physicians Mark Ratain and Peter O’Donnell created the Genomic Prescribing System based on a simple hypothesis—that patients and healthcare providers would be eager to incorporate genetic information into decisions about prescribing medical treatments if they had the tools to do so. So, they set out to develop a new model for personalized care that provides physicians with an accessible resource.


Their efforts recently received a boost when the University of Chicago Innovation Fund awarded the team $100,000 to support their work on GPS, which has the potential to help physicians make better prescribing decisions based on pharmacogenomics information.

GPS was one of four UChicago-affiliated projects that received a total of $314,300 in venture funding this spring. Other awardees include ventures that are developing new technology that could improve sexual health education for students, cancer treatments and operating room efficiency. Added to the projects funded this winter, the Innovation Fund has invested nearly $600,000 in UChicago ventures this year.

GPS combines a custom genetic test panel, an expertly curated database, and a user-friendly interface. The team studied the personalized medicine system at the University of Chicago as part of “The 1200 Patients Project,” with support from the University’s Center for Personalized Therapeutics.

“Based on the success of the 1200 Patients Project, we believe the GPS model represents an exciting paradigm-shift for healthcare and personalized medicine,” said O’Donnell, assistant professor of medicine and principle investigator for GPS. “We are looking forward to building a more robust tool and validating the system in other hospital and healthcare systems as a result of this funding.”

Spring 2014 Innovation Fund Projects

Ratain, the Leon O. Jacobson professor of medicine, chair of the committee on clinical pharmacology and pharmacogenomics and director of the Center for Personalized Therapeutics, and O’Donnell comprised one of seven teams invited this spring to submit proposals and present ideas to the Innovation Fund advisory committee’s venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and business strategy experts. The committee selected four ventures for funding.

“Through the Innovation Fund we help ventures that have progressed beyond basic research grant funding but are too early in their development to attract venture capital or licensing opportunities,” said John Flavin, executive director of the Chicago Innovation Exchange. “With so much great research and technological development happening all across the University, we’re able to play a critical role in backing these teams as they take their ideas to the next stage.”

The four projects funded by the Innovation Fund this spring are:

  • Ci3’s Game Changer Chicago Design Lab: The Game Changer Chicago Design Lab is creating innovative, evidence-based games to empower youth regarding their health, relationships, and community. The team, led by Melissa Gilliam, professor of obstetrics & gynecology and pediatrics, and Patrick Jagoda, assistant professor of English, is currently developing an interactive narrative game to address the topic of sexual violence. The Innovation Fund awarded Ci3 $50,000 to be used for continued development, play testing, and curriculum and distribution planning.
  • Nanoscale Coordination Polymers for Platinum-Resistant Ovarian Cancer: Wenbin Lin, professor in chemistry, has developed an SiRNA grafted nanoscale coordination polymer that re-engineers platinum-based chemotherapeutic drugs to overcome platinum-resistance in ovarian cancer. This technology increases progression-free survival benefits, reduces side effects of platinum-based drugs and can be used to treat several other types of cancer. The $100,000 Innovation Fund award will prepare the NCP for pre-clinical testing in platinum-resistant ovarian cancer.
  • ExplORer Surgical Information System: The Innovation Fund awarded Alexander Langerman, assistant professor of surgery and Marko Rojnica, resident in general surgery, $64,300 to enhance the prototype of their real-time surgical workflow software, which is designed to make teams in the operating room safer and more efficient. ExplORer is the first product to focus on the operative steps and team tasks while adapting to surgeon preference and patient factors.
  • The Genomic Prescribing System: GPS creates a database of how patients with particular genetic profiles react to specific drugs, and directs that information to a secure online portal for enrolled physicians to use and compare against. GPS received $100,000 to enable the development of a more robust tool and to validate the system outside of the University of Chicago. The team is led by Mark Ratain, professor of medicine, Peter O’Donnell, assistant professor of medicine, Keith Danahey, programmer, and Ken Bradley, business lead and venture partner at ARCH Venture Partners.

How the Innovation Fund Works

Twice a year, the Innovation Fund invests in proof-of-concept and early business development work for new ventures created by University of Chicago faculty, students and staff. The Chicago Innovation Exchange, along with its partners, the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and UChicagoTech, the University’s Center for Technology Development & Ventures, manage the fund. Teams are matched with student associate teams who help assess the business opportunities and prepare a presentation to the Innovation Fund’s advisory committee.

“As the Innovation Fund grows as part of the CIE, we’re expanding the support we’re able to offer these teams, as well,” said Jason Pariso, director of operations for the Innovation Fund. “In addition to the funding, we will be working with partners on and off campus to ensure teams have the right information, advice and resources they need to reach their next milestone.”

More information on fund recipients is available at the Chicago Innovation Exchange website. The next round of Innovation Fund recipients will be selected next winter. To be notified when applications are available, you may subscribe to the Innovation Fund mailing list.