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Global Entrepreneurship Week highlights importance of speed in innovation to pandemic response

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Hardika Singh
December 17, 2020

When faced with a crisis like COVID-19, researchers like Robert Huebner believe that it is important to go with a safe vaccine that works so that lives could be saved, rather than spend months perfecting it.

Huebner, principal consultant of Latham BioPharm Group, participated in a panel on biotechnology issues and the COVID-19 pandemic during virtual 2020 Global Entrepreneurship Week, hosted by Ohio University’s Center for Entrepreneurship.

Huebner compared an “OK” vaccine produced in two months to a great vaccine that takes six months to produce.

“You actually saved more people with your OK vaccine than you did with your great vaccine,” he said. “Sometimes you need sprinters to respond to a crisis, but you also need marathoners. We’re in a marathon here, and we’re maybe about a halfway through this COVID marathon. We’re at mile 13, and there are still another 13 miles to go.”

Government procurement is key to pandemic preparedness, Huebner said, encouraging research and production, as well as distributing the vaccine and guiding policies on who is going to get the vaccine first. Fellow panelist Karen Gibson, MBA '93, senior vice president of Digital Health at Quidel, added that researchers must make sure that enough supplies to support vaccines and diagnostic tools are available.  

Innovation is required, too, said Rob Painter '93 and Douglas Spitz. Painter and Spitz’s company, I2Pure Corp., developed a molecular iodine-based antiseptic lotion whose effectiveness can last up to 12 hours and nourishes and moisturizes the skin, unlike alcohol-based sanitizers.

Industry professionals recommended that students with medical backgrounds acquire business skills so they can understand the market opportunities for their ideas. 

“Most of these folks leave school with scientific background but have no business or financial acumen,” said Calvin James, associate professor of biomedical sciences in the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine at OHIO. “Pushing students into doing master’s programs in business administration, health policy and number of different areas as kind of add-on to their degrees will kind of open up a new skill.”

Since 2008, GEW has focused a spotlight on the role of innovation and entrepreneurship in economic growth. Millions of people in over 165 countries participate in GEW events every year.

This free event is hosted annually by Ohio University’s Center for Entrepreneurship, Corporate Engagement Office, College of Arts and Sciences Department of Biological Sciences and TechGROWTH Ohio. The Center for Entrepreneurship serves the entire Ohio University community. It operates as a partnership between the College of Business and the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs.

To find videos of the event, please click here