The Connection Between Innovation and Health Policy: Stanford Biodesign Looks to Build That Bridge

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On the heels of adding a policy module to its Biodesign program, Stanford has also created a fellowship focused on medtech regulatory and reimbursement issues. We speak with health policy expert Kavita Patel, who is poised to play a senior role in the new program.

For 20 years, the Stanford Byers Center for Biodesign has been the flagship academic program for training future generations of medtech innovators and entrepreneurs. The program has literally written the book and pioneered the curriculum combining the clinical, scientific, engineering, and business components necessary to develop innovative medical devices and launch successful start-up companies. It is a formula that has not only been successful in Palo Alto, but has also spawned similar programs worldwide.

When Biodesign co-founder Paul Yock, MD, retired in 2021 as the program’s director, and was succeeded by fellow co-founder, Josh Makower, MD, one of the questions that Stanford deans posed to Makower during the interview process was, “What changes would you like to see Biodesign make to keep the program on the cutting edge of innovation?” For Makower, the answer was clear: expand Biodesign to include a policy module to teach future entrepreneurs about the essential elements of the regulatory, reimbursement, and legislative processes. In his view, an equally important goal was to train the next generation of healthcare policymakers and deploy them to Washington, DC, and beyond as part of the overall policymaking ecosystem, both public and private. No such program existed anywhere. The idea was a hit with the administration and, upon taking the helm in August 2021, one of Makower’s first projects was to launch this policy module as part of the Biodesign curriculum, making Stanford’s the first policy program exclusively devoted to healthcare technology innovation broadly defined, including biotech, medtech, diagnostics, and digital health.

Having broken that ground, Makower then looked to take things one step further. As part of the policy program, Stanford Biodesign has created a fellowship designed to provide someone who is interested in this side of the device ecosystem with a Biodesign entrepreneurial experience, along with a deep, hands-on dive into the regulatory, reimbursement, and legislative world. Makower recruited noted health policy expert, Kavita Patel, MD—who, like Makower, is also a partner at the venture capital firm NEA—to play a senior role in running this new fellowship program, which launched in the 2023-24 academic year and is currently accepting applications for the next academic year.


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