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!

The Team

Kristin Ball
Kristin Ball



Kristin Ball, Marketing & Communications Manager

Kristin 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 where she specialized in copywriting and developing marketing campaigns.

She is a proud alumna who graduated from the University of Michigan with a double major in Spanish and Communications.

Meghan Cuddihy, Ph.D.









Meghan Cuddihy, Ph.D., Commercialization Education Project Manager

Meghan comes to FFMI after four years of working as a customer discovery consultant for early-stage companies focused on cell purification, wearable devices, and circulating tumor cells/single cell analysis. Also during this time, she worked at Aquaro Histology where she helped build the team and advance the company, including working on customer discovery, maintaining key opinion leader relationships, and building the brand.

Prior to that position, Meghan was the Marketing Director for 3D Biomatrix, which developed a three-dimensional cell culture tool.

Meghan has a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Michigan.

Najoua 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.

Jaclyn George
Jaclyn George



Jaclyn George, Administrative Specialist Associate Health

Jackie has worked for U-M since 2014, most recently as an Administrative Supervisor at U-M Canton Health Center. She brings over 10 years of administrative experience to her position with FFMI.

Jackie attends Eastern Michigan University, where she is working on a Bachelors in English, Literature, and Writing, with a minor in Psychology.

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.

Lauren James



Lauren James, Marketing Communications Specialist

Lauren came to the University of Michigan from Little Rock, Ark., where she served as the communications manager for two seasons at Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Arkansas’ largest professional regional theatre. Prior to that position, she was a social media coordinator and associate editor for the Arkansas Business Publishing Group, a special sections writer at Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, and a staff writer at The Daily Record.

Lauren received her B.A. in journalism from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and is currently working on her M.A. in journalism from the University of Memphis.

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, Ph.D.



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, MTRAC Program Director & Sr. Biomedical Innovation Specialist

Michelle has 7 years of diverse experience in the medical device and biotech industries. Prior to joining FFMI, she was the Projects Manager for the U-M Coulter Translational Research Partnership Program and a Biomedical Engineer for the U-M Pediatric Device Consortium (M-PED). In these roles, she facilitated commercialization grant funding projects and provided mentorship in the technology planning and development process with U-M inventors, as well as outside companies. Michelle also brings experience from working for two Ann Arbor-based start-up companies spun out of U-M technologies, Tissue Regeneration Systems and OcuSciences.

Michelle is a U-M graduate, having received her Bachelors degree in Biomedical Engineering in 2010 and her Masters degree in Biomedical Engineering in 2011.

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



Bradley Martin, Ph.D., Senior Director of Commercialization Programs

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.

Candice Stegink, M.A.









Candice Stegink, M.A., Path of Excellence/FFMI Commercialization Education Coordinator

Candice works with medical students in the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Path of Excellence (POE).

Before joining POE/FFMI, Candice most recently managed all continuing education and professional development programs for the College of Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. She has worked in higher education since 2011 and is passionate about helping students achieve their goals and aspirations.

Candice earned her B.S. in Public Relations and M.A. in Organizational Communication from Western Michigan University.

Amy Zarichny



Amy Zarichny, Senior Administrate Assistant

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.