Innovator Profile: Bryan Bednarz

Bryan Bednarz is a UW–Madison professor in medical physics. He runs a laboratory on campus that engineers and designs technology that focuses on imaging and therapy in health care. It was in this laboratory, with his co-founders Joe Grudsinski and Paul Wickre, where the idea for his innovation was born.

Bryan was working alongside his team of research students and staff to develop dosimetry tools to perform complex evaluations on the impact of radiopharmaceutical treatment in individual cancer patients. The process was highly sophisticated yet time-consuming, making it difficult to transfer into a clinical setting. So, Bryan, Joe, and Paul sought to create a company (Voximetry) that developed the same software but would allow clinicians to run these complex calculations exceptionally quickly. This is the result of the implementation of one critical element: graphics processing units. GPUs are specialized processors designed to expedite graphics rendering by simultaneously processing multiple streams of data.

Voximetry co-founders Bryan Bednarz, Joe Grudsinski and Paul Wickre viewing their dosimetry-guided RPT assessment software

With the help of the mentorship provided by Discovery to Product’s Abram Becker, Voximetry created tools to accurately and efficiently monitor radiopharmaceutical therapy in cancer patients. “It’s been great to work with the Voximetry team and to see all the progress they’ve made since participating in D2P’s Igniter program in 2017,” says Becker. “Bryan and Joe have taken advantage of D2P’s programs for multiple projects/companies, and it’s been great to help support them across these projects.” Since working with Becker, Voximetry has evolved its technology to evaluate the distribution and interaction of radiopharmaceuticals in both cancerous and healthy tissues. This will allow clinicians to tailor treatments to every individual precisely, improving the patient’s cancer care experience.

We asked Bryan to share his insights on cancer care treatment and his role as an innovator at UW–Madison:

Where did the idea for your company come from initially?

The two other co-founders worked in my lab and with another graduate student, Abby Besemer, who led the lab’s effort on radiopharmaceutical therapy dosimetry. Over a decade ago, we developed a research platform that allows researchers to perform these sophisticated dosimetry calculations in patients. The co-founders understood the potential clinical value of the tools, but we also knew that the time required to perform these calculations would be prohibitive in the clinical setting. Therefore, we conceptualized a company developing dosimetry software that allows users to do these calculations quickly.

How has D2P helped you, and what have you learned?

As someone who went through the program for several companies, Discovery to Product (D2P) taught me to appreciate the Lean Start-up methodology. The D2P program forced us to take a hard look at our business model assumptions and validate or invalidate these assumptions based on feedback we received from potential customers and D2P staff. Sometimes that feedback was not something we wanted to hear, but it led us on a more fruitful trajectory toward commercialization.

What other entrepreneurial resources/programs have guided you?

We are grateful for the many university resources available on and off campus around Madison. Initially, we used the Law and Entrepreneurship Clinic to help form our LLC. We used WiSolve to help perform customer discovery interviews. As an SBIR recipient, we were eligible to participate in the SBIR Advance program through the Center for Technology and Commercialization.

The campus is full of bright minds and amazing ideas, but many people do not self-identify as “entrepreneurs.” Do you connect with that term, and why or why not? Is there another term you’d use to describe what you’re doing with your project?

I’ve always identified as an entrepreneur. However, learning how to become an entrepreneur took me quite some time. I was able to develop an entrepreneurial mindset when I first started my research lab at UW–Madison. As a PI, you must hire a good team, be resourceful when obtaining funding, and advocate for your success. These are all basic entrepreneurial skill sets.

What’s your current focus with the company? What are your hopes moving forward?

The mission of our company has always been to improve patient cancer care. With our 510(k) approval (from FDA), we are optimistic that our software will be distributed around the globe, thereby fulfilling this mission. We also have a lot of exciting new technology that is currently under development.

What advice would you give to other campus innovators that are just starting to explore the potential of their ideas?

The greatest gift that a university provides to innovators is intellectual freedom. Innovators should take ownership in seeing the success of their ideas. Some ideas should remain on paper; others are better off being licensed to other parties. However, some ideas will only succeed with the grit and determination of the innovator(s) to see them through from conceptualization to commercialization.

What drives you/why is this project important to you personally?

Having a research product that ultimately makes it into the hands of clinicians and improves patient care would be tremendously fulfilling. As a faculty member at a public university, the success of my students is the primary validation that I’m successfully fulfilling my civic duties to the public. However, translating a research product into the clinic that delivers measurable impact in Wisconsin and beyond would be a close second.

Voximetry co-founders Joe Grudsinski, Paul Wickre and Bryan Bednarz
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