Ideas to reality, new initiative at UW tackles health innovation

Rock Mackie

UW Health has selected Thomas “Rock” Mackie to be the inaugural leader of the health system’s innovation initiative, which it is pursuing in partnership with the UW School of Medicine and Public Health.

Thomas “Rock” Mackie

Mackie, who was also named chief innovation officer at UW Health, is a well-known member of Madison’s biotechnology sector as a researcher, entrepreneur and investor. He will lead what is temporarily dubbed the “Innovation Hub,” an initiative which is like a traditional business accelerator – where seasoned entrepreneurs, with the help of science, technology, business and legal experts, guide new innovators through the process of developing an idea and bringing it to market­ – but it is housed within the walls of UW Health.

The hub, open to potential external business partners, is squarely focused on aiding UW Health’s own employees and medical staff, as well as other faculty, staff and students at the School of Medicine and Public Health and making connections to the broader university and entrepreneurial communities in Wisconsin and beyond.

The goal is to offer support for creative ideas and projects that have potential to achieve better health outcomes or to solve problems facing UW Health patients, providers and the health system but that are also scalable to create value beyond UW Health and UW-Madison, according to Kelly Wilson, senior vice president and chief legal officer at UW Health and the UW Health executive leading its innovation efforts.

The tremendous research and incredibly creative people serving UW Health and the School of Medicine and Public Health deserve a platform to help enable problem-solvers the way Mackie was supported in his early entrepreneurial years, and even more so, Wilson said.

“With Rock’s leadership and guidance, this initiative can provide support to unlock the enormous potential of our people to take it from untapped to industry-leading results,” she said.

Mackie’s list of innovations and companies includes founding Geometrics and TomoTherapy (incubated at UW Health); investing in and conducting research for Shine Medical Technologies; investing in Wisconsin Brewing and many more.

Before and during his long career in company-building and investing, Mackie was a faculty member at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in medical physics and human oncology. He began as an assistant professor in 1989 and concluded his academic career as professor in 2011. Mackie, an emeritus professor of medical physics and engineering at UW, was also the director of medical engineering at the Morgridge Institute for Research in Madison from 2010 to 2014. In addition to his investments in local biotechnology companies, Mackie also sits on the board of several other companies and institutions.

“Rock is the ideal leader to spearhead our desire to empower the medical visionaries we have all around us at UW Health and the School of Medicine and Public Health,” said Rick Moss, senior associate dean for basic research, biotechnology and graduate studies at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. “His extensive expertise in taking innovation from ideas to reality, then scaling them up, will be a tremendous asset to guide the early stages of our efforts.”

Mackie begins his position immediately and will begin building a team and infrastructure to support innovation activities. The initiative will be housed on the first floor of University Hospital.

The Office of Business Engagement joins Old National Bank in bringing you Thomas “Rock” Mackie, UW Health’s first chief innovation officer, at the Tuesday, March 26 Tech Council Innovation Network luncheon meeting in Madison. Register Today.