Center for Technology Transfer and Commercialization, partners launch Vanderbilt Innovation Ambassadors Program

The Vanderbilt Innovation Ambassadors Program is an initiative to provide Vanderbilt and Vanderbilt University Medical Center researchers with better peer-delivered access to assistance and information about innovation and entrepreneurship on campus.

The Innovation Ambassadors Program is part of the Enabling Innovation Initiative, a joint effort of the School of Medicine, VUMC and the Center for Technology Transfer and Research. Its goal is to serve the entire Vanderbilt research community, not just life science researchers. The Wond’ry, Vanderbilt’s Innovation Center, worked with initiative partners to create and launch the ambassador program.

The program’s inaugural ambassadors are:

  • Ryan Buckley, assistant professor of clinical medicine
  • Robert Carnahan, associate director of the Crowe Lab
  • Ed Chaum, professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences, biomedical engineering, pathology, microbiology and immunology and holder of the Margy Ann and J. Donald M. Gass Chair in Ophthalmology
  • Kevin Ess, Gerald M. Fenichel Professor of Neurology, division chief of pediatric neurology, and associate professor of neurology, pediatrics, and cell and developmental biology
  • Bryan Hartley, former clinical instructor in diagnostic and interventional radiology and CEO of heath tech company Pulmera
  • T.S. Harvey, associate professor of medical and linguistic anthropology
  • Yiorgos Kostoulas, director of the division of general engineering, professor of the practice of engineering management
  • Alex Langerman, associate professor of otolaryngology – head and neck surgery
  • George Nicholson, assistant professor of pediatric cardiology
  • Jon Wanderer, associate director of Vanderbilt Anesthesiology and Perioperative Informatics Research Division, associate medical director of Vanderbilt Preoperative Evaluation Center, professor of anesthesiology and biomedical informatics
  • Bob Webster, Richard A. Schroeder Professor of Mechanical Engineering, professor of electrical engineering, otolaryngology, neurological surgery, urologic surgery and medicine
  • Jim Weimer, assistant professor of computer science
  • Lauren Williamson, Vanderbilt Vaccine Center research assistant professor
  • Adam Yock, director of technology and innovation and assistant professor of radiation oncology

The program will be driven by departmental ambassadors who provide peer-level points of contact within Vanderbilt communities that will be easily accessible to those interested in pursuing a venture.

Ambassadors will provide general information and resources about intellectual property, translation and commercialization of academic discoveries, entrepreneurship programs and relevant institutional policies, such as conflict of interest and intellectual property policies. They also will connect their colleagues to appropriate institutional units, including CTTC, the Wond’ry and local initiatives, for deeper levels of assistance and service. They will then be responsible for providing feedback to those units to help improve the process.

Ambassadors will get training about a variety of commercialization, IP and entrepreneurship topics, as well as about application of Vanderbilt policies and procedures, to help them support their peers—which will also better equip them in their own pursuits. They will serve a two-year term with a one-time onboarding and training commitment of about six hours. After that, they will spend one to two hours per month on workshops, meetings and activities. Ambassadors will also meet quarterly to share experiences, successes and challenges and to identify initiatives that can boost innovation and entrepreneurship on campus. Participants will also periodically organize presentations to update university departments/divisions about innovation and entrepreneurship activities at Vanderbilt and in the local community. There also will be opportunities for optional activities, such as serving as guest judges during pitch competitions at the Wond’ry.