Translational Postdoctoral Fellows Xiaoting Jia and Michael Georgas are learning how to translate their research in RLE into private enterprises. Photo: Samara Vise
Translational Postdoctoral Fellows Xiaoting Jia and Michael Georgas are learning how to translate their research in RLE into private enterprises. Photo: Samara Vise

Yoel Fink PhD ’00 wants to save the next generation of researchers time and frustration in their efforts to move their ideas and inventions from lab to market. A professor of materials science and director of MIT’s Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE), Fink has developed a program to speed up the process of launching a business—the pitfalls of which he knows all too well.

Fink’s firsthand knowledge of what it takes to create a successful company dates back to 1997, when he invented a mirror that could reflect many wavelengths of light from any angle. He cofounded OmniGuide Surgical, which designs and manufactures medical devices such as a laser scalpel that uses the mirror to enhance surgical accuracy. Fink’s invention has since been used to treat more than 100,000 patients, but founding OmniGuide was a 10-year odyssey he has described as going “through hell and back.”

Fink created the Translational Fellows Program at RLE to help MIT’s postdoctoral researchers create businesses more rapidly. The program gives postdocs one day a week away from the lab to learn about and pursue a broad spectrum of business development activities, from forming a company, to hiring, incorporating, manufacturing, and working with investors.

“This is the first time that one of MIT’s main research labs has said ‘the process of getting technology out of the lab and into the market is our business,'” he recently told Beta Boston. Fink, who serves on the faculty advisory committee of the MIT Innovation Initiative, says the ultimate goal is not empowering researchers to find jobs in industry, but to empower them to create industries.

The Translational Fellows Program is in its second year and already has seen two companies launch and several patents filed. Columbia and Tufts are interested in replicating the program. With more than 1,450 postdocs working in dozens of labs across MIT, the program is poised to reach beyond RLE and support innovation throughout the Institute.

Related:

Read Fink’s Beta Boston interview about the Translational Fellows Program.

Learn more about the expansion of the Translational Fellows Program from MIT News.

Read MIT President L. Rafael Reif’s Washington Post op-ed on MIT’s quest to accelerate the progression from idea to investment to impact.

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