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MUSC setting the stage for ‘generational opportunity’ innovation district in downtown Charleston

Jason Thomas //May 21, 2024//

MUSC Chief Innovation Officer Jesse Goodwin talks with Hollings Cancer Center investigator Nathan Dolloff, whose work focuses on developing new cancer immunotherapies. (Photo/Sarah Pack)

MUSC Chief Innovation Officer Jesse Goodwin talks with Hollings Cancer Center investigator Nathan Dolloff, whose work focuses on developing new cancer immunotherapies. (Photo/Sarah Pack)

MUSC Chief Innovation Officer Jesse Goodwin talks with Hollings Cancer Center investigator Nathan Dolloff, whose work focuses on developing new cancer immunotherapies. (Photo/Sarah Pack)

MUSC Chief Innovation Officer Jesse Goodwin talks with Hollings Cancer Center investigator Nathan Dolloff, whose work focuses on developing new cancer immunotherapies. (Photo/Sarah Pack)

MUSC setting the stage for ‘generational opportunity’ innovation district in downtown Charleston

Jason Thomas //May 21, 2024//

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A reimagined campus building on the Medical University of South Carolina’s campus will be home to an evolving innovation hub.

MUSC is preparing to welcome innovators to a retooled campus building that offers lab space to people with great ideas that need room for growth, according to a news release. It’s the beginning of an innovation district that MUSC’s president has called a generational opportunity, the release stated

The location of that beginning is a building on Calhoun Street in a former College of Pharmacy site. It’s now home to Blue Sky Labs — a place for scientists and other experts who want to hone their creations, test new concepts and share space and ideas with fellow innovators, the release stated. The long-term plan is for other locations to follow.

Blue Sky Labs is still in the process of getting up and running. But it’s an important step toward the ultimate goal: a district where, in the words of MUSC President David Cole, “universities, corporations, manufacturers, dreamers and philanthropists come together to create a new level of what is possible,” the release stated.

Jesse Goodwin, MUSC’s chief innovation officer, is leading the effort and will be based in the Blue Sky building. “It is a physical demonstration of MUSC’s commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship and fostering that culture among its faculty and staff,” she said in the release.

She said cultivating innovation is one of MUSC’s core commitments. “Why is now the right time? We are at an inflection point as an organization and as a region where we have enough groundswell momentum that it’s time to double down on our efforts if we really want to move the needle and have the type of impact that I think MUSC is poised to have.”

Building momentum

MUSC has already developed multiple options for entrepreneurs who would benefit from institutional support, including:

The Zucker Institute for Innovation Commercialization, which helps MUSC innovators who want to start companies.

MUSC Health Solutions, which works within MUSC Health to validate pain points, conduct market research, develop build/buy/partner recommendations, and craft business cases for digital solutions.

Goodwin’s Office of Innovation, which works to build a culture of innovation by supporting new ideas generation through programs, funding, and pilot projects.

MUSC also has multiple entrepreneurial success stories. Case in point: QuicksortRx, started by a former network engineer and former pharmacist at MUSC. It helps hospitals make better pharmacy buying decisions. It’s been so successful that it’s moving into bigger digs and getting ready to hire more than three dozen new employees.

Other companies started by current and former MUSC employees include GlycoPath, which focuses on biomarker research; Leukogene Therapeutics, an early-stage oncology drug discovery company; and FibroTherapeutics, which is developing treatments for diseases involving organ fibrosis and vascular leakage.

Blue Sky Labs’ role

Those success stories show there’s already a supportive environment at MUSC and in Charleston for entrepreneurs, the release stated. Goodwin said Blue Sky Labs will build on that.

“We’re not trying to replace any of the existing entrepreneurial spaces like The Harbor Entrepreneur Center or the Digital Corridor. I think they’re wonderful. This is a supplement to those.”

An important distinction: “None of those existing spaces has lab space. This new MUSC space does,” Goodwin said in the release

“So if you’re a biotech company that needs a lab, until now, there was no place for you to go except for the South Carolina Research Authority incubator that’s on the peninsula,” Goodwin said.

“And that’s almost always fully occupied. So SCRA is supportive as well. This is a supplement to support life sciences in the region. It’s not a competition to the existing spaces. It can be complementary. Someone could have an office over in The Harbor and run their lab here.”

Goodwin sees MUSC’s role as going well beyond teaching students and healing patients. She said the academic medical center also has an eye on the future, according to the release.

“I think it’s our obligation to foster and support innovation.”