Technology commercialization — Kyle Harfst (left), director of technology and enterprise development at SIUC and executive director of the Southern Illinois Research Park, and Hurley Myers, president of DxR Development Group, Inc., look at health care education products developed by DxR, with assistance from SIUC, and marketed worldwide. Photo by Jeff Garner. (courtesy)

What began with a conversation between two SIUC faculty members is now an international health care education business, and the University and its Office of Economic and Regional Development have been important to the company's evolution.

The SIU School of Medicine's first-year students study on the Carbondale campus and by the mid-1980s, problem-based learning was in use. School of Medicine faculty Hurley Myers, then a professor of physiology and internal medicine, and Dr. Kevin Dorsey, then a clinical professor of internal medicine, discussed this form of learning and the challenges it presented for students. Partnering with software engineer Eldon Benz they created a computerized simulation program, "Diagnostic Reasoning," allowing medical students to examine a virtual patient with instructors able to study how the exam happened.

The medical education program wasn't just a hit at SIUC; other schools wanted it, too. And, the company founders, all employed at SIUC, realized there was a market for other health care education training and testing tools. Initially, they worked within SIUC but by 1992, the men established DxR Development Group, Inc. as an independent business and moved into a small office in the Illinois Small Business Incubator within the University's Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center.

In the ensuing years, DxR has partnered with various public and private organizations to develop and commercialize an ever-expanding line of products, including patient simulations, tutorial courses, online performance-based testing and more. Myers is the company president while Benz is vice president for operations. Dorsey, now dean and provost of the SIU School of Medicine, concluded his affiliation with DxR.

DxR has created patient simulations covering a variety of specializations and more are in the development stage, Benz said. The company's repertoire is extensive, including educational, business and web services. The company (http://www.dxrgroup.com/) also offers web services hosting, custom web application development, E-commerce solutions and support and maintenance.

"SIUC has remained a strategic partner with DxR Development Group," said Kyle Harfst, director of technology and enterprise development at SIUC and executive director of the Southern Illinois Research Park.

"DxR was a client of the Small Business Incubator and the recipient of technical assistance from the SIUC Small Business Development Center, Southern Illinois Entrepreneurship Center and the SouthernTECH ITEC programs. Those programs, within the SIUC Office of Economic and Regional Development, have provided technical assistance in areas ranging from business plan development aid to help with funding opportunities," Harfst said.

DxR Development Group, now employing 15, moved in 2006 to its current home in the University's One Enterprise Place, located in the Southern Illinois Research Park. The company continues to expand not only its product development and commercialization but also its market, with many of the products already translated into numerous languages and utilized in countries all over the world.

"DxR is currently working with its business partner in Taiwan, Chun Shin, Ltd., to finalize a distribution agreement with Laerdal China, Ltd., a global health care education company that is well known for providing high-quality medical education content, and we are confident the collaboration will expand our opportunities in mainland China significantly," Myers said. "DxR also has similar partnerships in Japan and in the Middle East where there is currently a major effort under way in Saudi Arabia to expand the number of medical schools. Many of these schools have already licensed or expressed considerable interest in licensing and incorporating DxR software programs into their medical curriculum. Moreover, several of these schools are interested in collaborating with Southern Illinois University School of Medicine to incorporate medical education innovations SIU uses into their curriculum."

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He attributes "a significant part" of his company's success over the past 20 years to the "ongoing support of the University, and in particular, the staff of the SIUC Office of Economic and Regional Development. Having my office in the Research Park, just short drive from the medical school, has made it easy for me to maintain an essential connection to medical education while at the same time, allowing me to conduct business worldwide."

The mission of the Office of Economic and Regional Development (OERD) is to enhance growth and build prosperity in the region through entrepreneurship, innovation and community engagement, Harfst said. Headquartered in the Southern Illinois Research Park, the economic development arm of the University oversees the Small Business Incubator program and works with clients with start-up and existing businesses throughout the region.

In addition to OERD, the Dunn-Richmond center is home to a computer lab, conference rooms, an atrium and rental space for new and expanding businesses.

The Research Park actually includes two facilities: Dunn-Richmond and One Enterprise Place, a nearby multi-tenant building for growing businesses.

There are currently 11 tenants in the Dunn-Richmond facility. One Enterprise Place serves as a mixed use facility housing six tenants. Planning is under way for a third building, slated for completion in early 2012.

"At any given time, there are usually several park tenants with businesses based on research or technologies discovered or developed at SIUC," Harfst said.

Operation Mousetrap, a pilot project providing SIUC faculty and staff with entrepreneurship training enabling them to commercialize their research and innovation technologies, debuted in 2010 at the Dunn-Richmond center. The program utilizes FastTrac TechVenture, an entreprenuership and business program from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, an organization fostering U.S. entrepreneurship. Partnering in the program at SIUC are the College of Business's Center for Innovation, the Illinois Small Business Development Center, the Small Business Incubator Program and the Southern Illinois Research Park.

Program graduates are eligible for three months of free rent through the Small Business Incubator program, along with other business and technical assistance. A number of University faculty members have created "spin-out" businesses following participation in the program, Harfst said.

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