About Us


Welcome to Fast Forward Medical Innovation (FFMI). Our mission at FFMI is to make biomedical innovation and entrepreneurship a natural academic behavior that speeds our University’s ability to move great ideas to patient impact. As such, FFMI provides a front door for accessing and navigating the rich biomedical innovation ecosystem at the University of Michigan for our faculty, trainees, and students, as well as industry partners.

Realizing that innovation is more complex than just that “Aha moment,” we have developed unique and integrative programs that span idea funding, mentorship, innovation-commercialization education, and business development activities with industry that help our talented and dedicated researchers accelerate and transition their discoveries onto viable commercialization paths. We also work to understand industry needs and seek opportunities to develop strategic research and development partnerships that bring long-term added value. The spectrum of these activities is resulting in the Fast Forwarding of the development of the next generation of devices, therapeutics, diagnostics, digital health, and most importantly – innovators!

As you can see by the numbers above, the University of Michigan is a research powerhouse and among the top five public universities in research spending in the United States. Our uniquely integrated programs are force multipliers that contribute to these results and are driven by a collaborative and team culture where breakthrough research thrives in the shared pursuit of innovative science, successful entrepreneurship, and improved patient care. Our partnerships across the U-M campus, as well as with the State of Michigan through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, are allowing FFMI to serve as an Innovation Hub and partner to many of the other great universities and health systems throughout the state, making the whole much greater than the simple sum of its parts.

Whether you’re a student, faculty, potential collaborator, or industry partner, we urge you to connect with a Fast Forward Medical Innovation program or team member to find your path to groundbreaking innovation. We look forward to partnering with you!

Best Regards,

Kevin Ward, M.D.
Professor, Emergency Medicine
Executive Director

Connie Chang, M.B.A.
Managing Director

The Team

Kevin Ward, M.D.
Kevin Ward, M.D.



Kevin Ward, M.D., Fast Forward Medical Innovation Executive Director

In addition to his role with Fast Forward Medical Innovation, Dr. Ward is also the Director of the Michigan Center for Integrative Research in Critical Care and a Professor in the UMMS Department of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Ward received his medical degree from Tulane University and completed his Emergency Medicine training at the University of Pittsburgh.

Dr. Ward’s research encompasses the development of platform technologies that span the spectrum of critical illness and injury ranging from the critically ill neonate to the critically injured warfighter. His research has been funded by the NIH, Department of Defense and National Science Foundation and he has authored or co-authored over 200 peer-reviewed publications, abstracts, and book chapters. He is a serial innovator and entrepreneur in the field of critical care with over 40 issued and pending patents, 10 products licensed to industry, and 4 companies launched. His work has resulted in his being awarded the Innovator of the Year at Virginia Commonwealth University and receiving recognition by the Department of Defense for his innovative work in hemostasis and in developing and directing programs that have provided medical training to over a thousand Special Operation Medics.

Dr. Ward’s passion is in developing programs which encourage strategic, integrative, and disciplined collaborations across medicine, engineering, information sciences, and industry that promote true solutions. The ability to integrate such strategies at all levels of problem recognition and solving (laboratory, classroom, bedside) applied to the tripartite mission of academic medicine serves as force multipliers for translational team science.

Connie Chang, M.B.A.
Connie Chang, M.B.A.



Connie Chang, M.B.A., Fast Forward Medical Innovation Managing Director

Connie joined the University of Michigan in 2009 after a 15-year career in business in Boston and New York, including nearly 12 years of experience in the pharmaceuticals industry where she worked in the commercial and marketing business functions. Previously Connie worked at Sepracor as Senior Director and brand team leader for the prescription pharmaceutical products Lunesta and Xopenex.

Prior to Sepracor, Connie was with Pfizer in New York working on brands such as Zyrtec, Lipitor, Zoloft and Caduet, as well as serving as Director of Regional Marketing for the New England region. She also worked as a consultant at Mercer Management Consulting’s New York office. Connie has a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychobiology from Harvard University and a Master in Business Administration from Harvard Business School.

Kristin Ball
Kristin Ball



Kristin Ball, Marketing Communications Specialist

Kristin is a proud alumna who graduated from the University of Michigan with a double major in Spanish and Communications. She has worked in marketing and promotions for the majority of her career, primarily in the technology and higher-ed fields, including a 10-year stint as a Promotions Manager at ProQuest.

Najoua Elbourkadi, Ph.D.
Nadjoua Elbourkadi, Ph.D.



Najoua Elbourkadi, Ph.D., Associate Director for Business Development

Najoua comes to us from Cooper Pharma, a Germany-based global pharmaceutical and healthcare company, where she was head of Business Development and Licensing. Najoua is returning to her U-M roots, as she was a postdoctoral fellow here under Dr. Richard Miller (U-M Pathology). She received her Ph.D. in Medicinal Biochemistry from UNC and her B.S. and M.S. from Hassan University College of Science and Techniques in Morocco.

Debra Grega, M.B.A., Ph.D.
Debra Grega, M.B.A., Ph.D.



Debra Grega, M.B.A., Ph.D., Business Development Director

Debra joins the team from Ohio where she led the Center for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine (CSCRM) since 2004. She brings over seventeen years of international, commercial biotechnology experience and has worked on both the scientific and business aspects of new biotechnology commercialization.

Prior to that at Athersys, Inc., Debra managed strategic alliances with key pharmaceutical partners such as Bristol Myers Squibb and Pfizer, and she also has R&D and business development experience from Roche. Debra received her M.B.A from Anderson University in Indiana, a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Kentucky, and completed her postdoctoral studies at the University of Michigan and Colorado State University.

Sara Johnson, Ph.D.
Sara Johnson, Ph.D.



Sara Johnson, Ph.D., Biomedical Innovation Specialist

Sara comes to us from the OhioHealth Research and Innovation Institute in Columbus where she was a Commercialization Associate. She received her Ph.D. in Biomedical Science from Ohio State University.

Visha Krishnan



Visha Krishnan, Ph.D. FFMI Senior Business Analyst

Visha works on commercialization funding and industry engagement opportunities. She was most recently part of the licensing team of Henry Ford Innovations and prior to that was Director of Market Discovery at The Searchlite, a venture development and consulting firm in Ann Arbor. Visha has a B. Tech. in Industrial Biotechnology from Anna University in Chennai, India, and a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Michigan.

Michelle Larkin



Michelle Larkin, MSE, Biomedical Innovation Specialist

Michelle is a biomedical engineer who has worked in the start-up medical device world, and most recently as a key project manager for the Coulter Translational Research Partnership Program. Prior to that, she was with the Michigan Pediatric Device Consortium (M-PED). She’s a graduate twice over from the U-M College of Engineering in Biomedical Engineering.

Sue Low
Sue Low



Sue Low, Senior Administrative Specialist

Prior to her role supporting the Fast Forward Medical Innovation team, Sue was an Administrative Assistant for the Dean’s Office of Shared Services at the School of Literature, Science, and the Arts.

She has a strong background in customer service, having worked as Call Center Manager at American Blinds, Wallpaper, and More for over 10 years before joining the staff of the University of Michigan.

Bradley Martin, Ph.D.
Bradley Martin, Ph.D.



Bradley Martin, Ph.D., MTRAC for Life Sciences Commercialization Program Director

Brad comes to the MTRAC team with 15-plus years of experience in the development of drugs and biologics, and particular expertise in preclinical development and translational research in the field of cardiovascular physiology and regenerative medicine. Much of his career has focused on the development of stem cell therapies for the treatment of myocardial infarction and heart failure.

He has considerable experience in leading cross-functional project teams, and has transitioned therapies from product concept through preclinical development, IND approval and eventual clinical trial. Prior to leading MTRAC, Brad served as a Mentor in Residence for the U-M Tech Transfer Office, was the Director of Product Development at Aastrom Biosciences, and the Director of Cardiac Research at Osiris Therapeutics Inc. He also spent several years as a Principal Scientist with Pfizer’s Esperion Division, studying the anti-atherosclerotic properties of ApoA-I Milano, and other novel peptides.

He received in Ph.D. in Physiology in 1993 from the University of Michigan, and completed post-doctoral fellowships in the departments of Cardiothoracic Surgery and Physiology at the University of Wisconsin.

Grace Murphy



Grace Murphy, FFMI Commercialization Education Coordinator

Grace Murphy works with MICHR and MTRAC Innovation Hub partners to extend the FFMI commercialization education programs outside of UMMS.

Before joining FFMI, Grace was Boston-based as the Creative Services Manager at Stride Rite Children’s Group, part of Wolverine Worldwide, where she oversaw creative operations and commercial production for the global lifestyle brand. Prior to this, she was a Creative Services Manager for Converse, Inc., and a Project Manager at TJX Companies, working on the TJMaxx brand team.

Grace is originally from the Detroit area and holds a Bachelor of Fine Art from the College for Creative Studies, Detroit, MI.

Hirak Parikh, M.S., Ph.D.
Hirak Parikh, M.S., Ph.D.



Hirak Parikh, M.S., Ph.D., Monroe-Brown Biomedical Seed Fund Manager

Prior to taking on this role, Hirak was Principal Scientist and Director of U.S. Operations for The Neuromarketing Labs – a startup based in Germany. His previous background is in neuroscience research and product development. Hirak received his Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering and an M.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Michigan.

Mike Ranella, M.B.A., M.P.H.
Mike Ranella, M.B.A., M.P.H.



Mike Ranella, M.B.A., M.P.H., Business Development Associate Director

Before joining FFMI, Mike worked at the U-M Frankel Cardiovascular Center (CVC) where he was the administrative lead for three cardiovascular specialty multidisciplinary programs, the cardiovascular health improvement project, and the key point of contact for industry sponsors engaged with the CVC on clinical trials. Prior to joining U-M in 2007, he worked at the VA Hospital in Detroit, conducting clinical research in the veteran patient population afflicted with abdominal aortic disease.

Jon Servoss, M.S.
Jon Servoss, M.S.



Jon Servoss, M.S., FFMI Commercialization Program Manager

Before joining the FFMI team, Jon was the Director of Continuing Medical Education and Continuing Education–Operations at the South East Area Health Education Center, part of the National AHEC Organization. While there, Jon developed, implemented, and evaluated Continuing Medical Education programs for physicians and other practicing healthcare professionals.

Prior to that role, Jon was a special project manager in Graduate Medical Education at New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, NC, where he assisted with the management of four Resident Physician Training programs. Jon completed his undergraduate degree at Adrian College, and his Masters in Education at East Carolina University.

Margarita Sifuentes



Margarita Sifuentes, Ph.D., POE/FFMI Education Coordinator

Margarita has a dual-reporting role with the Medical School as our new Education Coordinator for the Path of Excellence (POE) Innovation & Entrepreneurship. In her position, Margarita works closely with Mark Cohen, Professor of Surgery and Director of the POE, as well as FFMI’s Jon Servoss to bring innovation, commercialization, and entrepreneurship learning opportunities to M1-M4 students enrolled in the Innovation POE. Prior to joining FFMI, Margarita was the Graduate Student Programming Designer as part of the Department of Molecular, Cellular, & Developmental Biology where she helped create and design programs to help grad students build skills for the doctoral application process and future academic work. Margarita earned her B.S. in Biology from the University of Texas at San Antonio, and her Ph.D. in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology from U-M this past fall.

Amy Zarichny



Amy Zarichny, Administrate Assistant, Senior

Amy comes to FFMI from the Office of Research Grant Review and Analysis office. She is a graduate of Western Michigan University with a degree in Organizational Communication, and is currently attending Wayne State for her M.P.A.

Prior to coming to the University, Amy worked for a Head Start program and at a laboratory for kidney stone prevention testing.