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Wilbur Lam appointed Emory’s first vice provost for entrepreneurship
portrait of Wilbur Lam

Wilbur Lam, vice provost for entrepreneurship

Wilbur Lam, professor and W. Paul Bowers Research Chair in the Department of Pediatrics and the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Emory University and Georgia Tech, has been named Emory’s inaugural vice provost for entrepreneurship. The appointment, effective this month, was announced by Ravi V. Bellamkonda, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.   

In this new, part-time role, Lam will foster a vibrant startup culture among Emory students, working through The Hatchery and other units to expand programming and mentorship for students eager to translate their ideas into marketable products and services.

An experienced entrepreneur himself, Lam will also partner with leaders, schools and units across Emory to create better-defined, integrated pathways for faculty and student entrepreneurship. Additionally, he will expand the work of Emory Innovations Inc., a holding company of select portfolio companies and initiatives designed to assist faculty in moving rigorously vetted discoveries and inventions to a market-ready stage.

“Supporting innovation and entrepreneurship is a priority for President Gregory L. Fenves and Emory’s leadership team across the enterprise,” says Bellamkonda. “As vice provost for entrepreneurship, Wilbur will help elevate Emory as a leader in this arena, working with our deans and other leaders to nurture an environment where transformative ideas thrive and entrepreneurial pursuits flourish.

“By building synergies across the university to create a more intentional pipeline for delivering innovations to society, I am confident that we will empower many more students and faculty to effectively pursue their entrepreneurial ideas.”

Entrepreneurship is directly tied to Emory’s mission of creating and applying knowledge in the service of humanity, Bellamkonda noted, and the new role builds on the university’s strong reputation as an incubator for world-changing ideas and inventions.

For example, molnupiravir, a groundbreaking antiviral drug for COVID-19, was discovered at Emory and advanced for use in patients through Drug Innovation Ventures at Emory (DRIVE), one of the accelerator initiatives that comprise Emory Innovations Inc. The Journal of Technology Transfer recently ranked Emory third in the world among public-sector research institutions for the development of FDA-approved drugs and vaccines, and Emory scholars every year generate new innovations across a range of fields.

Among Lam’s priorities will be to expand the scope of EII as a unique source of translational support for promising Emory inventions beyond its current focus on drug development, working closely with EII governing board members Bellamkonda, executive vice president for health affairs Ravi Thadhani and executive vice president for business and administration Christopher Augostini.

Similarly, Lam will work closely with the Hatchery to amplify support for student startups — building upon the center’s success in supporting 159 student ventures, with nearly 60 launched, since its founding in 2020.

“The concept of entrepreneurship is about taking an idea you have, using it, translating it and affecting as many people as possible,” Lam notes. “It goes hand-in-hand with our values here at Emory. We want our students to be game-changers who impact the world. We just need to teach the skills on how to take an idea and amplify it.”

Lam believes aligning and integrating existing innovation activities across the institution will ensure students and faculty have the resources necessary to pursue and develop their ideas. He envisions opportunities to improve the experience of Emory innovators and reduce redundancies by strengthening partnerships among offices and units like The Hatchery and Office of Technology Transfer as well as school-based and student-led initiatives.

“There is great work being done separately in our schools, in the Hatchery and in many other units across our campuses,” Lam notes. “If we could build synergies and allow these entrepreneurial programs to work together and coordinate across the enterprise, we could create an innovation pipeline that would benefit faculty and students regardless of where they are.”

Since joining Emory in 2011, Lam has pursued his passion for innovation and entrepreneurship through his impactful research, engaging students and colleagues in work that improves the lives of the broader community. His laboratory’s work focuses on translating technologies as cost-effective solutions, empowering patients to more easily monitor their conditions at home. He has co-founded three point-of-care and home-based diagnostics companies borne out of his lab’s research, one of which was acquired by Johnson & Johnson. Another recently obtained FDA clearance for one of its diagnostic tests for home use, allowing anemia patients to self-monitor hemoglobin levels, and has developed a smartphone screening app that has been downloaded and used more than 1.4 million times. The app enables anyone to non-invasively screen for anemia, replacing the need to draw blood.

Under his leadership, the recently established Center for the Advancement of Diagnostics for a Just Society (ADJUST Center) aims to develop and implement diagnostic technologies that are reliable, accessible and affordable for all communities and all economic backgrounds.

Lam, a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, elected member of the National Academy of Medicine and elected member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation, currently serves as associate dean of innovation for Emory University School of Medicine, vice chair of innovation in the Department of Pediatrics and co-director of the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Pediatric Technology Center. He is also a physician in the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. He will continue in those roles as vice provost as he builds a more unified, institutional approach to entrepreneurial pursuits at Emory.

“We have the will and the talent in every part of the Emory ecosystem to take ideas and amplify them. We just need to unite our efforts,” Lam says. “This can’t be done by one person — it has to be a university-wide endeavor, and it’s one that I am honored to lead.”

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