An interdisciplinary team at Yale will train substance abuse researchers in entrepreneurship starting next spring.
The training program, called “Innovation to Impact: Translation Support and Education,” will be funded by a $1.25 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The program aims to teach students and faculty members interested in substance abuse innovations how to commercialize their research. Participants will attend a five-day boot camp in product development and entrepreneurship, connect with substance abuse industry leaders and receive seed funding.
The training program will be directed by Seth Feuerstein, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry, and Patricia Simon, an associate research scientist in the department.
“I’ve been teaching entrepreneurship for a long time,” Feuerstein said. “This seemed like a next step to best help people with substance abuse disorders.”
As the chief medical officer of medical and digital innovation at Magellan Healthcare, Feuerstein has helped develop apps and software programs designed to combat substance use disorders, insomnia, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and various phobias. Simon, who currently teaches a seminar at Yale on developing artificial intelligence products for health care, said she has been developing substance abuse prevention and treatment programs for a decade.
According to the 2014 national survey on drug use and health, 20.2 million American adults — 8.4 percent of the U.S. population — have a substance use disorder. Although scientists have developed innovative cures to prevent and treat such disorders, many do not reach the public, Simon said.
The new training program will empower “substance use researchers to translate their innovation from the lab to the world,” according to the program’s website. The program will recruit substance abuse researchers focused on basic science, epidemiology, prevention, treatment and policy, the website states.
Given the opioid addiction epidemic in Connecticut and across the country, the new training program is particularly relevant.
“The overdose death rates in Connecticut alone [are] shocking,” said Kristin Budde, a Yale psychiatry resident and a member of the program’s executive board. “I see a number of patients with substance use disorders, and the effects on them and their families can be devastating.”
Although the opioid crisis has only recently begun receiving sustained media attention, Simon said, scientists have been developing innovative solutions to the problem for some time.
Connecticut has a “robust ecosystem for innovation,” Feuerstein said, adding that he will be in touch with state agencies to gauge interest in the new program.
“Yale has a long history as one of the preeminent centers in terms of substance abuse [prevention] in the nation,” Feuerstein said. “Hopefully, this program will add another facet to Yale’s role in combating substance abuse.”
Serena Cho | firstname.lastname@example.org