Ferris Associate Professor of Pharmacy Wins Research Project Award


BIG FAST – As the spring semester wrapped up for Sonali Kurup, associate professor of medicinal chemistry at Ferris State University, his learning process in the fastPACE Fast Forward 2021 medical innovation program began.

Kurup enrolled in the six-week Innovation and Commercialization course offered by the University of Michigan and funded by the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps program.

Kurup, a faculty member at the College of Pharmacy, researched a new cancer treatment, which received support from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation as part of the ADVANCE program offered by Michigan State University.

Financial support continued with the MI Kickstart Prize, offered by the University of Michigan. Kurup also received a three-year award for the project from the National Institutes of Health.

Kurup was encouraged to participate in the course by Technology Transfer Talent Network Mentors-in-Residence, Bruce Markham and Karen Studer-Rabeler, whom she met through the ADVANCE grant. Sonali’s project focused on a new therapy for cancer.

She joined the course under the Therapeutics Stream with Tom Dowling, Assistant Dean of Research and Director of Ferris’ Office of Research and Sponsored Programs. Kurup and Dowling were one of 14 research teams participating in the course, with the Ferris duo joining participants from the University of Michigan and Ohio State University, among others.

“The FFMI fastPACE course has helped develop a business plan to understand and design the next steps towards a possible commercialization of this therapy,” said Kurup. “The Zoom sessions provided us with a framework to connect with partners and pharmaceutical companies and to learn about the commercialization process. “

The fastPACE program consists of six modules. Kurup said these sessions last two to four hours, over six weeks.

“It’s a lot more complicated than being a casual observer of a Zoom presentation,” Kurup said. “Weekly thematic areas include customer discovery interviews, intellectual property discussions and identifying critical milestones on the road to commercialization. We regularly discussed our research plans and the training product with those involved in the treatment of lung cancer, including clinicians, clinical trial specialists and scientists in the pharmaceutical industry. This was followed by a weekly discussion with the mentors of the fastPACE Therapeutic Pathway and a wrap-up presentation over the past week to the fastPACE Judges, involving research entrepreneurs with successful commercial products that started in a small laboratory.

Kurup’s project was awarded in the FFMI fastPACE summary presentation, taking first place among the six teams participating in the second breakout session.

Kurup said the fastPACE program has been a valuable learning experience as she continues her research into the new cancer treatment.

“It has been a rewarding process, providing the opportunity to interact with peers from some of the country’s most distinguished research institutions,” said Kurup. “It helped me refine the objectives of my project. I have a long way to go, but it’s great to plan for marketing as a possible end goal. “

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