UAMS Translational Research Institute Launches Entrepreneurship Training Program with University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

By David Robinson

The UAMS Translational Research Institute kicked off the program with the announcement of its first four postdoctoral trainees in the Health Science Innovation & Entrepreneurship (HSIE) Postdoctoral Scholars Program.

Entrepreneurship scholars: Melody Penning, Ph.D., Aaron Storey, Ph.D., Samir Jenkins, Ph.D., and Astha Malhotra, Ph.D.

Entrepreneurship scholars: Melody Penning, Ph.D., Aaron Storey, Ph.D., Samir Jenkins, Ph.D., and Astha Malhotra, Ph.D. 

The 15-credit graduate entrepreneurship training includes a significant new partnership with the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

The college will provide distance education courses to the UAMS scholars, who also will work with MBA student teams at the UA to develop commercialization plans for health-science technologies conceived at UAMS. The four selected in the competitive application process and their research interest areas are:

  • Samir Jenkins, Ph.D., nanomaterials and stem cell differentiation.
  • Astha Malhotra, Ph.D., 3-D printing and tissue regeneration.
  • Melody Penning, Ph.D., algorithms to predict adverse events in health care.
  • Aaron Storey, Ph.D., identification of bacteria in synovial fluid.

“The concept of translational research challenges us to more quickly move biomedical innovations and new technologies into everyday practice, and knowledge of the commercialization process is a critical factor to meet that challenge,” said Nancy Rusch, Ph.D., the program’s co-director, and professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology in the UAMS College of Medicine.

“I am thrilled to see this program take off and to have such an esteemed partner as Dr. Carol Reeves at the Walton College of Business, who is known nationally for developing entrepreneurs,” she said.

Carol Reeves, Ph.D., UA associate vice chancellor for entrepreneurship and innovation, said the program establishes an important new link for collaboration between UA and UAMS.

“What the Translational Research Institute is doing with this program is a great complement to our MBA program and our graduate certificate in entrepreneurship. The UAMS scholars, biomedical discoveries and innovations are an exciting addition that strengthens both institutions.”

The collaborative relationship with Reeves’ program has its roots in the 2016 Entrepreneurship Boot Camp for UAMS graduate students. Reeves led instruction along with Rusch and Nancy Gray, Ph.D., president of BioVentures, and there have been many other collaborations since then.

The boot camp inspired Amanda Stolarz, Ph.D., a then UAMS graduate student, to join one of Reeves’ MBA teams that went on to win the 2017 Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup competition along with the $25,000 top prize.

“Dr. Stolarz set a high bar for future UAMS entrepreneurs,” said Gray, who is part of the program’s leadership team. “We have a program in place now to provide the mentorship and coaching that will help aspiring UAMS entrepreneurs translate biomedical discoveries into new products, diagostics and medications to improve health outcomes. In parallel, and in partnership with the Arkansas’ business community, we plan to contribute to the growth of biotechnology-based jobs in the state.”

In addition to Rusch and Gray, the program’s leadership team includes other UAMS faculty with entrepreneurial backgrounds: Curtis Lowery, M.D., the program’s co-director and director of the new UAMS Institute for Digital Health & Innovation; Kevin Sexton, M.D., a surgeon and assistant professor in the College of Medicine, and Jay Gandy, Ph.D., chair of the program’s Internal Advisory Committee. Gandy also is professor and chair of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health in the UAMS College of Public Health and incoming associate provost at the UAMS Northwest Regional Campus.

The project is supported by the Translational Research Institute, grant TL1 TR003109 funded by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.

UAMS is the state’s only health sciences university, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; hospital; a main campus in Little Rock; a Northwest Arkansas regional campus in Fayetteville; a statewide network of regional campuses; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Psychiatric Research Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, Translational Research Institute and Institute for Digital Health & Innovation. It is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has 2,727 students, 870 medical residents and five dental residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including 1,200 physicians who provide care to patients at UAMS, its regional campuses, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and Baptist Health. Visit or Find us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram.