Hough Ear Institute, a non-profit research institute with 15 full-time employees from all over the world who now call Oklahoma home, boasts an impressive five commercialization partners, including two international pharmaceutical companies, that are helping bring the research institute’s technology and innovation to clinic.
“Between hearing loss, tinnitus, and now traumatic brain injury and neurodegenerative diseases, potential global revenues are on the order of several billions of dollars for these indications, especially if any combination of these innovations were to make it to market,” said Matt West, Hough Ear Institute chief operating officer.
And while a lot is on the horizon for Hough, the research institute has been responsible for significant innovation already: Hough played a key role in the design of the modern cochlear implant, which has restored hearing function to more than 400,000 people with the most severe hearing loss worldwide. And now, Hough has since pivoted from prosthetic hearing devices to focus on pharmacologic solutions to hearing health.
How do you define innovation? “New ideas with legs. I love to see good ideas go places, especially when they are translated and realized in ways that enhance our quality of life.”
How does your innovation strategy help drive your growth? “Our goal is to have sufficient foresight and flexibility to be responsive to discovery rather than reactive. This requires having good people and infrastructure in place and having a willingness to collaborate in areas where our institutional knowledge has not yet caught up with our aspirations. There’s always risk incumbent in that kind of pursuit, but for us, it keeps us stepping out into innovative space. As a non-profit, we must partner with commercial entities to help bring our ideas to market. This inherently requires letting the innovations that we have nurtured along the way leave the nest to fly on their own, so we try to operate in simultaneous modes of sowing and harvesting. Sometimes this requires us to build the bridge beneath us as we go, but the goal is to do that from a responsible position of conceptual strength as often as possible, either through good planning or good collaborative relationships.”
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