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Texas Health Catalyst: Application

Illustration of a hand holding a phone with health-related icons floating around it.

Do you have a discovery or idea for a product to improve health?

Make your project more attractive to potential funders and partners: Apply to Texas Health Catalyst for an opportunity to receive commercialization support and to work with mentors with experience taking health care products to market.

Our application process for 2021 is closed, but if you share some information about your project, we can keep you posted on other opportunities and also let you know when the next cycle is launched.

About Texas Health Catalyst

Texas Health Catalyst supports promising ideas that address unmet needs and accelerates their translation to viable solutions that improve health. The program identifies promising UT Austin and Dell Med projects and provides consulting support and seed funding to improve their clinical and commercial viability. The aim is to help projects get to their next key milestone or inflection point where they can attract more resources, partnerships and funding to continue their journey.

The program has two phases:

  1. Phase 1 (Consulting Award): Customized guidance from clinical and industry experts to get feedback about clinical and commercial viability, define the most attractive commercialization pathway and identify funding opportunities and next steps to attract investors and commercial partners.
  2. Phase 2 (Funding Award): Receive $5,000 to $50,000 in seed funding to achieve specific milestones and outcomes to make the solution attractive to commercial partners and investors. Only Phase 1 awardees are eligible to apply for Phase 2. (Exceptions may be made in special funding cycles.)

Start the process of applying for a Phase 1 award by filling out the Texas Health Catalyst project form. No lengthy proposals or pitch decks required — just roughly 250 words describing your idea or solution. After Texas Health Catalyst receives your submission, the program manager will be in touch to set up an introductory meeting.

Eligibility

Eligible to apply are:

  • UT Austin faculty members (including Dell Med faculty and clinical affiliates)
  • UT Austin students, postdoctoral associates and researchers
  • Dell Med residents 
  • Austin-area startups and entrepreneurs

See the frequently asked questions section for more information about eligibility.

Texas Health Catalyst has a customized approach to projects, so ideas and discoveries at any stage (idea to human clinical trials or pilots) are welcome. Dell Med clinicians are also welcome to apply with just a problem statement — no solution required. If your problem statement is selected by reviewers to advance, the program may be able to help connect you with a technical collaborator at UT Austin who can work with you to brainstorm and co-develop a solution.

Submissions can target any clinical area or may address problems in clinical operations, nutrition, healthy living and other areas without focusing on any specific specialty. The program is interested in any solution that can improve outcomes and/or reduce costs including:

  • Devices: tools, novel materials, regenerative medicine and other medical devices;
  • Diagnostics: imaging, biomarkers, tests to guide therapy and other diagnostics;
  • Therapeutics: drugs, biologics, drug delivery methods, reformulations and other treatments;
  • Digital health: software, apps, care delivery, telemedicine, data, health records, decision-making tools, monitoring and wearables and other digital health solutions.
I have interacted with other programs like this before and it has been a lot of talk and little action. With Texas Health Catalyst, it is little talk and a lot of action.

Professor, College of Natural Sciences

Evaluation Criteria & Steps

Program reviewers consider the following criteria before making a consulting award recommendation:

  • Is the project likely to result in a solution that addresses a real and substantial problem?
  • Will the resulting solution be superior to current solutions? This may mean it is more cost effective, more efficient or creates better outcomes.
  • Is the project likely to attract resources (funding, partnerships) to help develop it further and take it to the clinic?
  • If the resulting solution reaches the market, will it positively impact health or health care by gaining widespread use?

Program Process: Phase 1 (Consulting Award)

Texas Health Catalyst accepts applications for Phase 1 consulting awards year-round until 10 Phase 1 Awards have been granted. The program encourages innovators to apply as early as possible with a quick 250-word description.

Since the process is highly selective, Texas Health Catalyst has a simple initial submission process to reduce undue burden on applicants. The quick description helps the program determine eligibility and fit.

If the project meets program criteria, Texas Health Catalyst invites applicants to discuss their project with program officers to determine eligibility and fit.

Following office hours and a quick review process, select applicants are invited to submit a full application: a 10-slide PowerPoint using a provided template. The program provides feedback to all applicants who submit a full application regardless of advancement to the consulting phase.

Based on expert review of the complete application, Texas Health Catalyst offers Phase 1 consulting awards to a few select projects (a maximum of 10 consulting awardees per cycle).

Key elements of a Phase 1 Award are feedback and mentoring from industry and clinical experts to:

  1. Understand the clinical unmet need and commercialization pathway for the technology/innovation and identify next steps to advance the project; and
  2. Improve commercial attractiveness and clinical relevance.

All Phase 1 awardees participate in the annual showcase event, the Texas Health Catalyst Demo Day. Read an event recap from a previous cycle for additional information.

Texas Health Catalyst continues supporting projects even after the consulting phase. Offerings include:

  • Media coverage, showcase and networking opportunities;
  • Industry connections to facilitate sponsored projects or out-licensing opportunities; and
  • Resources for company formation and fundraising (including Small Business Innovation Research [SBIR] programs and early investor help).

Apply to Phase 1 by submitting a 250-word description of your project. 

Program Process: Phase 2 (Funding Award)

The application process for Phase 2 is open for projects in oncology and neurology. Seed funding awardees can receive $5,000 to $50,000 in funding to achieve key milestones of interest to industry partners and investors.

Since translational research typically has limited sources of funding, there are situations where an inventor has interest from investors or industry but needs a crucial piece of information or data to solidify this interest. For example, investors may look for a proof-of-concept animal study or a clear outline of the regulatory pathway or a reimbursement assessment. The intent of Phase 2 awards is to help bridge this gap. At the end of Phase 2, it is expected that projects either receive outside investment or industry sponsorship for further development.

Eligibility

Only teams that have received consulting awards from the program in a current or previous cycle are eligible to apply for Phase 2 funding awards. Exceptions may be made for projects in special cases where the program is working with a company or investor seeking a specific type of technology for their pipeline.

Teams must contact Texas Health Catalyst directly to determine eligibility and get access to the application form. Email the program at TexasHealthCatalyst@austin.utexas.edu with “Phase 2 Award Inquiry” in the subject line to receive more information.

I am not aware of any funding agency inside or outside UT Austin that provides the same breadth and depth of consultation on an idea.

Professor, Cockrell School of Engineering

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Feedback: Applicants receive feedback on their project, including potential roadblocks in their clinical translation plan and ideas on how to address these barriers. They may also be connected with clinical collaborators, licensing targets or other sources of funding.
  • Customized guidance and expert consulting: Based on expert review, a few select projects receive Phase 1 consulting awards. During this phase, Texas Health Catalyst pairs innovators with experienced clinical and industry experts to help increase the likelihood of commercialization.
  • Improve your chances of grant (NIH, NSF, SBIR), foundation and private funding: A better understanding of commercial viability and sustainability can improve chances of success when seeking federal and foundation grants including R01s. Most granting organizations now look for these aspects in addition to novelty and technical feasibility. The program also offers access to the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps regional program — see a related blog post — which can be a big plus when seeking NIH or NSF funding. If a startup is created, the program also offers connections to private investors in its network.
  • Maximize the impact of your research: UT Austin is a top-tier research institution whose researchers come up with cutting-edge discoveries often. But there is a wide chasm between early research and impact thanks to huge challenges involved in taking a health product to market. The program can help you map out this journey and bring in the right resources at the right time to achieve impact.
  • Seed funding (only for Phase 2 awards): Select projects receive in-kind support and/or anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000 in milestone-based seed funding or support. Awards may include support for prototype design or testing/clinical validation; proof-of-concept experiments including animal studies aimed at acquiring specific data needed to get to the next inflection point for commercialization; and/or consulting services and connections to clinical collaborators, industry partners, potential licensees and funding sources.

Early successes achieved by past projects demonstrate the value for translational researchers and early innovators at UT Austin.

Depending on the project stage, participants may spin out their project as a startup or be connected with potential licensees. Others may choose to continue their translational research work at UT Austin to mature the project further.

Texas Health Catalyst evaluates all submissions through a brief internal review process to determine eligibility and potential strategic fit with the program. The team then invites select projects to meet with program officers and submit full proposals. The full proposal is a simple PowerPoint deck with 10 to 12 slides using the provided content guide/template.

All sensitive information will remain confidential. If your form indicates that intellectual property has not been filed, the program takes additional steps during the review process to prevent any public disclosure.

No, not really. The initial submission form only asks for a roughly 250-word description of your project. If there are aspects that you don’t have worked out, that is entirely OK! Projects do not have to come in with a fully fleshed-out business plan to be eligible, as these questions are addressed during the consulting award phase.

Yes, such a project may be relatively early but that does not preclude it from receiving program support. Texas Health Catalyst typically supports projects that are slightly further along, but the program is interested in projects even at the idea stage. (If you are a clinician, you can apply even at the problem statement stage!)

In some cases, the program has advanced such early projects and supported customer discovery and prototyping. Texas Health Catalyst will consider several factors for early projects including the significance of the problem, the unique value proposition of your solution, your team’s commitment to commercialization, and how well the project aligns with the program’s mission of improving health and health care.

Texas Health Catalyst looks for applicants with the following characteristics:

  • Commitment to commercializing your idea or discovery;
  • Full participation of the entire team (or main lead if submitting as an individual applicant) in program activities such as consulting sessions, advisor meetings, review panels and Demo Day;
  • Willingness to learn and shape the project plan based on feedback.

No, although some teams form companies at the end of the award period (and receive support for company formation), not all projects need to be spun out as companies right away. Some need to be developed further and may be eligible for more research funding mechanisms such as R01s. Other teams may explore licensing opportunities, as they may be more appropriate as part of a bigger company’s portfolio. Texas Health Catalyst can help with figuring this out during the consulting phase.

We will not dispute this one at all! Applicants must be committed to dedicating significant time and effort translating their research, ideas and solutions to the clinic through startups, licensing or other commercialization venues. Think of this process as work you would have to do anyway to commercialize your idea. The program can actually help save time by providing resources and pointing efforts in the right direction. In some cases, the go/no-go decision has helped innovators pivot or spend their time on more viable projects. Although some seed funding may be available through Phase 2 awards, the real value for applicants is the support and guidance the program provides to help reach milestones that are attractive to clinical and commercial partners.

For a better idea of what to expect, check out an interview with three Texas Health Catalyst awardees about their experiences with the program.

Yes, UT Austin students and postdocs, Dell Med residents and Austin area entrepreneurs are eligible to apply. Note that submitting this form doesn’t mean your intellectual property is automatically considered UT Austin IP. Once Texas Health Catalyst receives your submission, the program manager will set up an introductory meeting and discuss how to handle any IP that is generated. This may differ on a case-by-case basis.

We understand that many clinicians and health administrators have a first-hand look at some of health care’s biggest challenges on a daily basis. If you know of a clinical problem that needs solving, let us know!

We strive to guide research and innovation toward solving significant and extant problems, and we rely on clinical insights to inform our understanding of the definition, context and scope of the problems awaiting solutions. In some cases, we may be able to connect you with the right technological expertise to help brainstorm a solution and collaborate to build it. Such projects, born out of a critical unmet need, have a high likelihood of achieving clinical and commercial viability.

Email the team to receive help with the form or further information.