Boston and California are known for their biotechnology industries, and Houston—with the world’s largest medical center—is poised to become the “third coast” of biotechnology. But for every medical innovation that is discovered, there are “1,000 ways to die,” whether through regulatory blocks, lack of funding or manufacturing delays.
That’s why in 2015, the University of St. Thomas collaborated with the Houston Methodist Research Institute to establish the Master in Clinical Translation Management degree.
Homer Quintana ’08, MLA ’11, is one of the first four graduates of the program. He will graduate with more than 950 students at the University of St. Thomas Commencement at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 20, 2017 at NRG Arena, 1 NRG Park.
Quintana is currently a project specialist for Mauro Ferrari, Ph.D., executive vice president of Houston Methodist and the president and CEO of the Houston Methodist Research Institute, or HMRI. Quintana saw the advancements being made in biotechnology in the Texas Medical Center and wanted to be part of the new program in clinical translation. That means taking an idea from the research bench to the patient.
“Serving as a project specialist for HMRI, there was a huge sense of frustration from our researchers, because they have these great ideas and great technology, but they don’t know the pathways to commercialization,” he said. “It’s a very long process—for drugs it can take 17 years and upwards of $2 billion. It is necessary to optimize the process, to mitigate the risk at the beginning.”
Now that he’s completed the MCTM degree, Quintana has been offered a new position at HMRI as a project manager in its new Center for Device Translation. He will help researchers navigate products, devices and technologies through the various phases involved in regulatory approval and commercialization.
Clinical Translation Degree Provides Hands-on Experience
The process for clinical translation can involve developing budgets, managing intellectual property, finding sources of manufacturing, regulatory guidance, evaluating market share and developing market strategy. He’s already practicing through a real-life, student-run project as part of the MCTM Program.
Quintana approached Ferrari’s medical research on nanoparticle- based chemotherapy drug delivery in light of clinical translation. With over 20 years of research and an estimated $100 million in funding along the way, the drug has proved efficacious in mice in 50 percent of the population with triple negative breast cancer. Quintana and Ferrari know the value of the technology is the possibility for it to be applied to other cancers. Clinical translation is necessary to bring the technology to patients.
With companies already knocking at the door of the new Center, Quintana hopes he’ll be able to help HMRI develop a large portfolio of successes.
“No project is the same,” he said. “That’s what this degree helps in understanding, you tailor your expertise to the project, knowing that things are very fluid.”
This is Quintana’s third degree from St. Thomas. Coming from a background in history, he said the social sciences helped him understand how to analyze critically. With curiosity and an open mind, he was able to research and problem-solve obstacles, hallmark skills of a degree from a liberal arts university.
Ferrari said Quintana excelled in the coursework focusing on regulatory approval pathways for medical devices, the establishment and development of spin-off companies, and the management of medical product development.
“We are looking forward to welcoming him in his new professional capacity, with complete confidence that he has acquired all of the necessary competencies to excel in it, to the benefit our institution and most importantly our patients!” Ferrari said.
Pursue a Clinical Translation Degree in 1 Year
The two-year program was streamlined into a one-year, online program, expanding the opportunities beyond Houston residents. In the new MCTM program, there will be four residency weeks of class—three in Houston and one week at the Strausburg School of Management in Strausburg, France, for students to learn about regulatory bodies in Europe.
The deadline to apply for fall 2017 is June 30. Find out more at www.stthom.edu/mctm
Ferrari said further growth for biotech is on the horizon, as the region begins to attract more startups utilizing resources and innovative spaces like TMCx, JLABS and Fannin Innovation Studio.
It is extremely promising for growth in the industry and students in the MCTM program who will only benefit this sector with their knowledge and unique perspective,” he said. “By equipping MCTM students with the necessary tools, graduates of this program are empowered to negotiate this dynamically complex clinical translation process and deliver tangible results for all parties involved.”
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