Doing it a better way – Dr. Michelle Hanna Founder of RiboMed

Dr.-Michelle-HannaHave you ever looked at something and thought – I bet I know a better way?  Sure, most of us have.  A select few will go all in.  They do not just think about a better way.  They create it.  We call them inventors.

A great example is Dr. Michelle Hanna, the founder and CEO of RiboMed Biotechnologies.  Michelle , received her Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of California, Davis in 1983 and did her postdoctoral work in Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics as an American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. She was an Assistant Professor of Biological Chemistry at UC Irvine College of Medicine where she received young investigator awards from the American Cancer Society and the Beckman Foundation. Dr. Hanna was a tenured Associate Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Oklahoma until August 1999, when she founded RiboMed Biotechnologies. Over the past 23 years, Dr. Hanna has been awarded over $10 million in grants and contracts from the ACS, the National Cancer Institute (NCI)/National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)/NIH, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and the Homeland Security Advanced Projects Agency (HSARPA). Her work has resulted in numerous peer-reviewed publications, three book chapters, five issued U.S. patents, 1 international patent, and multiple pending patents.

clip_image001[7]Michelle and her team are combining know-how with a passion for finding a better way and are applying it to the field of personalized medicine.  By specifically looking at the ways that we treat cancer, RiboMed is developing tests that will save lives AND decrease healthcare costs.  Today, patients with many forms of cancer, including lung cancer and  ovarian cancer, are often treated with the chemotherapy drug cisplatin. While cisplatin treatment may be effective, it carries with it severe side effects and, either before or during treatment, the majority of patients will develop a resistance to the drug.  The end result – all of the side effects and associated costs without the benefit.   

Using RiboMed’s patented technology, Michelle and the team are developing new tests that will allow physicians to test for resistance first so that they will know if cisplatin is the right way to go for their patients or if another strategy might be better.  And, since new drugs are being developed and approved that can reverse cisplatin resistance, RiboMed’s tests will allow physicians to determine when these drugs are needed.  Called companion diagnostics, these tests are just one way that committed teams and researchers are putting the power of invention  to work.

As an investor  in the company  and then as a member of the board of directors, I have had the opportunity to observe Michelle and her team in action.  Perhaps their dedication to the research and innovation process has rubbed off on me.  By watching them, I am learning too.  Here is what Michelle and her team have taught me.

1.  Innovation is not an exact science.  Instead it is a continuing process of exploration, experimentation, application, and explanation.

2.  A person may invent something – but it takes a team committed  to the goal to take that invention and turn it into something that truly makes a difference –   to create innovation. 

3.  Overnight success is a myth. Great inventions become innovations when the inventors are willing to make the commitment to helping others apply the invention to doing things in a new way that makes things better.

I hope you have enjoyed this series honoring some great inventors during National Inventors Month.  

Thanks for stopping by.  Stay tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker

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