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by Sara Carney

Bench to Shop: Making Discovery a Reality Bench to Shop Trains Next-Generation Professionals

Dr. Simmons (left), Dr. Arenas (center), and Dr. Krecek (right) Scientists use research as a tool for discovery, uncovering solutions to problems both large and small. However, barriers exist between solutions produced through research and the practical applications achieved through commercialization. Though scientists may have the capabilities to produce a preventative, such as a vaccine, they may lack the business knowledge or training to successfully bring it to market. That’s where Texas A&M One Health and the Bench to Shop program step in. Recognizing the need for a bridge between research and commercialization, Bench to Shop lead team members Drs. Angela Arenas, Rosina “Tammi” Krecek, and Heather Simmons designed the Bench to Shop program. This program is funded by the United States Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate. Its purpose is to sensitize graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and early-career faculty to the process of successfully transitioning scientific discoveries to commercialization. The program is specifically geared toward those studying transboundary diseases, which can move across borders, in livestock. Through Bench to Shop, a nine-month training certificate program is being developed, and eight trainees have been selected to participate. A second program was developed for three masters of business administration (MBA) dual-degree students in their final capstone course, who examined the potential customer base and market viability. “This long-needed training fills a gap in current curricula for next-generation scientists,” Arenas said. “This has been made obvious though our expert team, strong collaborations with other institutions, and enthusiasm from nextgeneration scientists as shown in our application numbers.”

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Three professional students—two dual MBA/MD students and one dual MBA/DVM student—were attracted to the Bench to Shop program and formed a team to undertake a 10-week capstone project that also served as part of their MBA curriculum. They presented their findings in May 2016 to faculty in the CVM, Texas A&M Health Science Center, and Texas A&M Mays Business School. In addition to receiving guidance from Arenas, Krecek, and Simmons, the students were also supported by Dr. Janet Marcantonio, executive professor at the Texas A&M Mays Business School. “In their capstone projects, our MBA students learn a tremendous amount from applying their knowledge and skills to real-world business challenges,” Marcantonio said. “The opportunity to contribute to Bench to Shop was a perfect fit for our MD and DVM students, who were able to utilize the business model canvas and fulfill their professional development goals.” The capstone team, made up of DVM student Alycia Crandall and MD students Lillian Niakan and Heather Naumann, focused on brucellosis, a bacterial disease that can cause spontaneous abortions in livestock, as well as joint and muscle pain and fatigue in humans. The disease is caused by the Brucella bacterium and can be transmitted to humans through unpasteurized milk. Brucella is prevalent in a number of underdeveloped regions of the world, such as sub-Saharan Africa, India, and the Middle East. The bacterium is not currently a major public health concern in the United States, but there is potential for it to cross borders. If left unmediated, brucellosis poses a potential bioterrorism threat that could become more prevalent with the growing trend of drinking raw milk, since this is one way for the disease to spread to humans. Beyond identifying solutions for mitigating the global threat of brucellosis, the capstone project offered these students an unparalleled learning experience. This hands-on project included face-to-face interviews with internationally experienced researchers and faculty from the University of Georgia, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Texas A&M University, and the University of Pretoria in South Africa.

Finding a Solution Crandall, Naumann, and Niakan conducted market research on how a Brucella vaccine could be produced and commercialized on a global scale, benefitting multiple countries. Innovation and resourcefulness drove the students’ proposal. They emphasized the importance of balancing the health of humans, animals, and the environment, while also considering factors such as economic feasibility and cultural barriers to implementing

CVM Today - Winter 2017  
CVM Today - Winter 2017  

A semi-annual publication for the faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical...