ASCEND Hub Redoubles EDI Efforts to Increase Diversity in Entrepreneurship and Commercialization Opportunities

Thursday, May 06 2021

Today, ASCEND Hub – a member of the National Institutes of Health funded program designed to stimulate entrepreneurship and transition discoveries and technologies from the lab into commercial products that address human health – announced plans to leverage its second phase of NIH funding to intensify its Equity, Diversity and Inclusion efforts to bring more visibility to under-represented groups and encourage the engagement of diverse life sciences students, faculty and innovators at higher-educational institutions within the states it serves.

“We recognize the need to increase the participation of women, persons of color and other under-represented persons in applicable biomedical innovation, commercialization and entrepreneurship ecosystems,” said Kathy Foster, ASCEND Hub’s program manager. “The impact of these EDI efforts will have profound benefits that will elevate different perspectives, experiences and ways-of-thinking leading to improved human health and improved entrepreneurial acumen in the communities we serve.”  

ASCEND Hub launched in 2018 as part of the NIH funded STTR Regional Technology Transfer Accelerator Hubs for IDeA States​ and currently serves Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wyoming. The Hub has a history of engagement of Minority-Serving Institutions as it has partnered with some of the largest Hispanic-Serving Institutions in New Mexico and Nevada, as well as Alaska Native and Native-Hawaiian-Serving Institutions such as the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and has consulted faculty and department heads at Tribal Colleges and Universities throughout the region to identify meaningful outreach paths for Native American innovators, faculty, and students. However, the Hub recognizes the need accelerate and expand this this work is a top priority. 

“ASCEND’s business advising and pitch coaching resources not only helped Able Therapeutics better understand our market allowing us to refine our pitch to investors, but it also connected us to different networks of potential investors,” said Ernesto Abel-Santos, CEO of Able Therapeutics and professor of chemistry and biochemistry at University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “With ASCEND growing its reach to additional HSIs, innovators, faculty and students can have access to similar programming found at larger universities throughout the Western IDeA States.” 

“By increasing outreach efforts to Minority-Serving Institutions, ASCEND will bring our resource access to even more colleges and universities throughout the region,” said Eric Prossnitz, ASCEND’s academic lead and professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of New Mexico. “Biomedical commercialization can be a long, difficult path, but with our entrepreneurial education, training and business advising resources, we hope to provide under-represented groups with the critical support they need in the process.”

The Executive Memo outlines the Hub’s next steps in its EDI strategy and provides insight into how it plans to increase its service to under-represented groups. The initial plan includes:

  • Establishing an EDI Advisory Committee: A diverse set of advisory board members will be recruited to help refine the EDI mission and to assist in the creation of a long-term EDI strategy for ASCEND Hub.

  • Expanding Engagement of Underrepresented Groups in Programming: ASCEND Hub will increase its engagement of these groups in entrepreneurial education and programs, including business advising, SBIR/STTR application development, and innovation pilot project awards.

  • Strengthening Relationships with Higher-educational Institutions Serving Underrepresented Students: ASCEND Hub will dedicate resources to strengthening the relationships and outreach with Hispanic Serving Institutions, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Alaskan Native- or Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions, and Asian American Native American Pacific Islander - Serving Institutions.

  • Reinforcing Access to ASCEND Hub Solutions: ASCEND Hub will audit all activities and content to ensure education, training and funding programs, resources for early-stage technology development, mentoring opportunities and access to sufficient technology development reflect the needs of underrepresented students, faculty and innovators.

  • Extending the Mentorship Network: In conjunction with ASCEND Hub’s continued effort to grow our mentoring network, we will ensure that the network is representative of the diversity of the Western IDeA States and actively seek out minority innovator and thought leader participation.

  • Developing a Long-term EDI Strategic Plan: With the assistance of the EDI Advisory Committee, ASCEND Hub will develop and launch a long-term strategic plan designed to institutionalize EDI in the commercialization of biomedical technologies, as well as transform the representation of diversity in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields across the Western IDeA states.

"HealthTechApps' story began with three Native Hawaiians co-founders. Now we are so excited to partner with the University of Hawaii JABSOM medical school to use our MyHealthStory AI/ML technology to capture, compute and communicate mental health symptoms and triggers of Native Hawaiian students and faculty members,” said Noe Foster, co-founder of HealthTechApps, Inc. “We are confident that this data will inform the creation of a new community resilience program that will not only improve the mental health of Native Hawaiians, but will become a national model to benefit all indigenous students. With the expanded support of ASCEND business advising, consultation and training, HealthTechApps, Inc. will be able to leverage more tools and secure additional funding to ensure a successful outcome for all."

The full content of the Executive Memo can be accessed at For those interested in learning more about serving on ASCEND Hub’s EDI Advisory Committee or as a mentor, please contact Kathy Foster at

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