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Health IT startups eligible for funds, resources

You get money, a place to work, a mentor and access to resources. The rest is up to you.

That’s the promise of DreamIt Health Baltimore, a four-month, intensive accelerator program for early-stage entrepreneurs in the health information technology sector.

Applications are being accepted for the 10 or so open slots, organizers said Wednesday.

Those startups that are selected will receive up to $25,000 in seed funding (depending on the number of people who started the company and are participating in the accelerator), as well as individualized mentoring sessions, access to collaborative work space and introductions to investors and established industry leaders.

The accelerator will be managed by DreamIt Ventures, a Philadelphia company founded in 2008 by three technology entrepreneurs who wanted to create opportunities for other aspiring business owners to receive assistance. DreamIt Health Baltimore, which will run from Jan. 14 to May 9, is modeled after a health IT accelerator the company launched in Philadelphia.

The program — the first in Maryland to focus on health IT — is also a partnership between the Johns Hopkins University and BioHealth Innovation Inc., a Rockville-based nonprofit whose goal is to make it easier for researchers to commercialize their health-related discoveries.

Participants will benefit from the resources available at Hopkins — including research facilities and faculty members’ expertise — as well as BioHealth Innovation’s experience bringing together myriad biotechnology and health care institutions to create a robust “innovation ecosystem,” said Richard Bendis, president and CEO of BHI.

Ronald J. Daniels, president of JHU, said innovation is “the key to making health care more accessible.”

“This accelerator project will have important implications for the future use of information as we use technology to find solutions for the most pressing health problems of our day,” Daniels said in a statement. “Just as important, it sets up Baltimore to become even more central to the health care information revolution.”

Participants must live in Baltimore during the four-month program. They will each be paired with a mentor, with whom they will work throughout the session. They will take courses from a variety of experts about entrepreneurship and starting a company, as well as classes on specific health care subjects. They will also have opportunities to meet with DreamIt Ventures’ alumni network of 127 companies that have gone through similar accelerator programs.

Elliot Menschik, a JHU alum and the founder of medical imaging firm HxTechnologies, will soon be added to the DreamIt team as leader of the Baltimore accelerator. He praised DreamIt’s ability to organize meaningful business-development programs that have been successful in churning out quality companies.

“We’ve learned that, in health care in particular, the most important thing we can do to help founders and reduce investor risk is to enable access to resources typically out of the reach of most startups,” Menschik said. “Working closely with Johns Hopkins and BHI opens up stellar opportunities for these teams to pressure-test and speed to market their solutions to significant problems that plague patients, providers, payers and other industry stakeholders.”

Funding for the program comes, in part, from a federal grant awarded earlier this month to BioHealth Innovation and the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore. The two organizations received a combined $520,000 from the Economic Development Administration to build on the region’s existing strengths in the biotechnology and health care industries, with the ultimate goal of creating more jobs and moving more research from the labs to the marketplace.

Bendis said participants in the accelerator will get access to several significant biohealth institutions nearby, including the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda and the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.

Applications for DreamIt Health Baltimore — available at dreamitventures.com — will be accepted through Nov. 11 from health care-related startups across the country; selections will be made by mid-December.