Speeding Up Innovation in East Baltimore

(photo by P. Kenneth Burns/WYPR)
(photo by P. Kenneth Burns/WYPR)

Ed Yoon, chief technology officer of dataFascia, is drawing a diagram on a wall in his office. Don’t worry; the paint used in the offices turns a boring wall into a dry erase board.

His company is working on a way to make electronic health records, EHRs, more available to app developers.

“In essence, we’re sort of a middleware lair that allows us to take data from different EHR’s and abstract that in a way so that the app developer is just looking at the data; not caring really caring where the data’s actually coming from,” says Yoon.

On the sixth floor, Lauren Dickinson and Matthew Davenport with Gemstone Biotherapeutics, a regenerative medicine company, sets up new equipment in a shared lab space.

The two companies, dataFascia and Gemstone, are among several companies that have moved into Johns Hopkins University’s second business accelerator, Fast Forward East, at the corner of North Wolfe Street and Ashland Avenues.

The school is to hold an open house Wednesday.

A business accelerator is…

Similar to an elementary school project where an egg is hatched in a make shift incubator, a business accelerator hatches new companies into the world. However, an accelerator is faster than an incubator.

Hung-bin Ding, associate professor of management and international business at Loyola University Maryland’s Sellinger School of Business, says business accelerators operate like boot camp. They provide entrepreneurs with intense training over a period of time – three months for example – to help bring an idea to market.

“At the end of three months, all of the entrepreneurs will have a prototype of their technology or product ready for commercialization,” says Ding.

There are at least six accelerators in the Baltimore Metropolitan Area. According to Ding, the accelerators can enhance an already strong footprint in medicine, technology and education.

“Once accelerators start to perform its function as a channel for creativity energy, then you will start to enhance the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Baltimore City and Baltimore metro area,” he adds.

Fast Forward to Johns Hopkins

Hopkins launched its first accelerator in 2013 near the Homewood campus. Nearly 80 companies applied to be a part of the program housed in the Stieff Silver building on Wyman Park Drive. The university accepted 41 applicants as either virtual—they don’t occupy space in the building–or resident participants. Now, the building is at capacity with 12 resident companies.

The new location, which is temporary until a new, larger space is built across the street, has 28 bullpen desks and six dedicated offices with rents ranging from $200 to $800 a month. In addition to workspace, there is access to a common kitchen and a shared conference room. Access to shared lab space is an additional $800 a month.

Christy Wyskiel, a senior advisor to the university’s president, says lab cost was kept in mind when designing the space.

“Companies often don’t have a lot of money; thousands and thousands of dollars that are required to buy equipment on the first day of starting a company in a lab,” she says, “So we’re trying to provide some of that basic equipment that the companies can share and have that on day one when they start.”

In addition to the loft like place, companies will have access to the Hopkins network; business professionals, subject matter experts and the Johns Hopkins Hospital.

dataFascia moved to Fast Forward East from Betamore, a business incubator in Federal Hill, because of its proximity to the hospital where a project the company is involved in is being tested in the surgical ICU department. Yoon says the Hopkins connection is vital for his company.

“If you have something running at Hopkins and it’s proven at Hopkins then other folks will take notice,” he says.

Story originally posted at news.wypr.org on February 11, 2015.

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