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News: Accelerator for health-tech startups coming to UM's life science park

A new startup accelerator focused on the intersection of healthcare and technology is coming to Miami next year.

Project Lift Miami, designed to help develop young companies and prepare them for investment opportunities, is a partnership between Lift1428, an innovation design, strategy and communications firm, the Miami Innovation Center at the University of Miami Life Science & Technology Park and its developer, Wexford Science + Technology, and the UM Miller School of Medicine, said Robert Chavez, executive director of Project Lift Miami. “We’re being proactive and trying to support innovative ideas and companies… We’d like to keep them here and really help to transform the area into a healthcare innovation hub.”

The healthcare-technology accelerator will offer the selected entrepreneurial teams a structured 100-day program of classes, workshops and training directed by national and local healthcare experts as well as mentoring and strategic support that will continue well beyond the program, said David McDonald, CEO of Lift1428, co-founder of Project Lift Miami and creator of the programming.

 “This meets a critical unmet need in innovation,” said Norma Kenyon, chief innovation officer at UM’s Miller School, explaining that oftentimes novel ideas aren’t put in front of people who can help until they are pretty far along. “Where do you go if you have a great idea that really could be transformative? This provides much needed support for these very early-stage technologies.”

 About 10 to 15 entrepreneurs or startup teams will be selected for the first class, which will start in May. Each will be offered seed funding — probably $20,000 to $30,000 in cash and services in exchange for a small equity stake — and will be provided free office space at the research park, Chavez said. The program will run through August, closing with a Demo Day, where entrepreneurs present their businesses to potential investors.

 “There’s so much regulation and there are privacy issues and other barriers to entry that are different in the healthcare industry. Having the access to the environment we have here to test your idea and prove your concept is a great advance,” said Chavez, who is also executive director of business intelligence at UM’s Miller School. “That kind of mentoring you won’t get at a general accelerator.”

Future Project Lift programs could be rolled out at other Wexford science and technology parks across the country if Miami’s program goes well, said Bill Hunter, Wexford’s regional director of leasing. “Project Lift is directly aligned with our mission to cultivate innovation in our community. You need investment in those early-stage opportunities.”

Entrepreneurs interested in applying for the 2013 class can contact Chavez at rchavez@lift1428.com or 305-345-8670, or stop by the Miami Innovation Center at the UM Life Science & Technology Park, 1951 N.W. 7th Avenue, Suite 300. There is also more information here: www.lift1428.com/projectlift