Many of you may already know that Influuent™ is UT System’s free, online searchable database that allows the private sector, academic researchers, and government agencies to find thousands of renowned researchers, experts, and facilities across the Systems’ campuses and health institutions – in one spot, quickly and efficiently.
What you may not know is that Influuent is also a great source of information for proactive medical patients who are looking for a practicing physician who is also active in research. Additionally, it is a great resource for volunteers (healthy or not) who want to enroll in a clinical trial.
The medical profession has come a long way in developing therapies and treatments to prolong and enhance the quality of life for patients who are facing an uphill health battle. However, given the sheer magnitude of what is being developed in the scientific field, even doctors are hard pressed to keep up with it all. Patients are taking an increasingly proactive stance to research the options available to them, so that they might make the best informed decisions about their healthcare and treatment.
Most patients will tell you, they want the best doctor who knows the most about their disease. So, how do they go about finding that doctor? Others are willing to enter into a clinical trial that allows them to take advantage of the latest drugs and treatments for their particular malady. But, where do they start to look for such a trial?
Good news. The information is right at their fingertips, and it’s free!
Influuent Offers Helpful Information, Insight, and Data for Patients
The Influuent website is growing and evolving daily. It serves as a gateway to finding specific researchers and faculty experts, innovations, and even facilities. For patients looking for a particular doctor who is actively in practice, as well as involved in research, the Find Experts tool is a discovery portal to the 15,000+ faculty experts in the UT System. Users can find profiles on a doctor, including area of research, location, contact information, publications written, and research network. Further online research will reveal if the doctor is in active practice.
Finding Clinical Trials
Under the Resources tab on the Influuent site, users will find information about UT System’s special-focus centers and institutes, as well as the clinical trials occurring across the campuses. Clinical trials are a key research tool for advancing medical knowledge, providing insight into the disease process, and determining whether a drug or treatment is safe and effective for patients.
Despite a huge increase in the number of registered studies being conducted, there are still many studies that are hindered by procedural, structural, and infrastructural barriers, as well as a lack of volunteers. Research suggests that many patients eligible to participate do not because they are not given the information from their doctor.
However, thanks to the Internet – and to Influuent – patients and advocates can actually locate clinical trials online.
When Lorna D., a healthy 64-year-old artist and teacher living in Texas, first developed a tremor in her right wrist, she immediately suspected she might have Parkinson’s disease (PD). She maintains an active life, taking care of her two-year-old granddaughter, working in her garden, painting, playing guitar, and enjoying social events with family. But because of Lorna’s significant contact with heavy metals, especially inorganic manganese compounds she used in clay and glazes during her career as a potter, as well as the fact that her maternal grandfather and uncle both had PD, she decided to contact an osteopathic neurologist for a professional opinion. Since there is no scientific diagnostic test for the disease, the doctor ran Lorna through the gamut of clinical tests and then delivered her findings – Parkinson’s disease.
While Lorna’s doctor was thorough in her exam and respectful of her patient’s desire not to take medication for as long as possible, the doctor never recommended a clinical trial. Even if she had, Lorna does not feel she has the time or the energy to spend on clinical trials, preferring instead to channel her strength into maintaining as much quality of life as possible over the next five to ten years.
Echoed by many PD patients, these reasons, among others, are just a few of the contributing factors explaining the low enrollment in PD trials. There are about 319 million people in the U.S., but only 1 million have been definitively diagnosed with Parkinson’s, representing just one-third of one percent of the population. Of those patients, only 1% is enrolled in clinical trials. This explains to a great extent why the disease is not well known and certainly not well understood.
How Can Influuent Help Patients Such As Lorna D.?
As Lorna avails herself of the resources on the Influuent website, she is recognizing the importance of finding the right doctor and is reconsidering entering a clinical trial. Her biggest concern is that her debilitating symptoms make it difficult to travel long distances to be tested. However, there are options available in some cases that allow a trial volunteer to capture and transmit information from home, thus reducing the number of onsite visits.
In the event that Lorna decides she wants to contact a PD researcher/doctor to follow-up, she can access the information through the Influuent Resources tab. In addition to a listing of clinical trials by UT System institution, which allows users to view by treatment, physician, and study, there are also doctor and faculty profiles, including interviews – one of which is with UT Southwestern Medical Center neurologist and movement disorders specialist Dr. Richard Dewey on Parkinson’s. Users can also tap the Influuent Experts database under the Tools tab to find practicing doctors who are involved in the research of a particular disease.
Progress towards a cure happens through the active involvement of patients and their advocates. Whether it is reading published studies, searching for practicing doctors who are involved in research, or becoming a clinical trial volunteer, patients hold a key to cures that cannot be found without their participation.
It is purely Lorna’s choice if she decides to enter a clinical trial for PD, but at least she knows they are out there, along with other valuable resources for Parkinson’s patients. She also knows that for the scientific community to find a cure for Parkinson’s, Michael J. Fox says it best, “The answer is truly in all of us, working together.”
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When The University of Texas System’s Office of Strategic Initiatives decided to send a team to the 2015 BIO International Convention in Philadelphia to introduce Influuent™ – UT System’s free online tool for finding faculty experts, innovations, and facilities – we really didn’t know what to expect. This was our FIRST time attending BIO . . . but it may not be our last.
Hyped as the world’s largest biotechnology gathering, BIO 2015 consumed approximately 160,000 square feet of exhibition space at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. The show featured more than 1,700 exhibitors, which included 60+ state, regional and country pavilions that hosted companies from their regions. In other words, BIO is a big DOG, not only in the world of biotech, but for global conferences, as well.
UT System was one of more than 300 academic institutions exhibiting at the convention, and it was in good company along with the world’s top 25 pharma companies and the top 20 clinical research organizations (CRO) and contract manufacturing organizations (CMO). The BIO Convention makes it possible for exhibitors to reach high-level executives and influential decision makers who are interested in discovering who the new players are in the industry, as well as forming partnerships and evaluating emerging technologies.
Does this sound familiar? It should. This is what Influuent is all about – helping interested parties find potential partners to move their projects, research, and ideas forward. It’s about collaborating with other scientists to develop life-saving drugs and medical devices. It’s about accessing the latest laboratories and equipment, and establishing networks and partnerships. In the end, Influuent is really about tech transfer – moving science from the laboratory to the marketplace. That’s what Influuent does and that’s what BIO 2015 promotes. It was a match made in heaven.
For ease in maneuvering, the exhibition hall was organized by product focus zones – Academic, BioProcess, Business Services, Contract Services, Digital Health, and Discovery. Influuent was located in the Discovery Zone because it offers new and unique tools for research and development that will help innovative biotechnology companies move from discovery to full scale production. Influuent provides a single search of more than 15,000 faculty experts from the University of Texas System institutions. It helps users locate key campus contacts and form a lasting and productive partnership with UT System.
Influuent World Premiere
The official launch for Influuent was in May, but its introduction at BIO 2015, in essence, was its world premiere. Though the carpeting was green, we really experienced a red-carpet event. Hundreds of people visited our booth – some were captured by the University of Texas name, others were curious about the Influuent name and mission, while many wandered by aimlessly until they were wrangled by one of our fab five team members into the world of Influuent.
Occasionally, we were met by a sigh, as if to say, “Do I really have to listen to your spiel? I just want the swag.” But after a minute or two, especially after we did a brief demo of Influuent, we would see a marked change in the visitor – they were clearly digging Influuent, and they wanted to know more.
Many of our visitors were from outside the United States – from Chile and Australia to Belgium and China. We met with a diverse group of companies with varying specialties in pharmaceuticals; investments; biomedical; technology & venture commercialization; data collection, integration, analysis, and reporting; biosciences; and life sciences, to name a few. Whether the company was a start-up or a long-time player, they all shared a common characteristic – they were interested in Influuent and what it could do for them. Some giants, including Abbvie, AstraZeneca, Galderma, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Novartis, Phizer, and even the University of Utah Technology & Venture Commercialization, stopped by our booth.
The Influuent Five
OSI’s Team Influuent, comprising Stephanie Huie (vice chancellor), David Troutman (director), Paula Bales (communications coordinator), Nancy Daniels (communications specialist), and Cindy Chang (senior application developer), manned the UT System booth daily from 9:00 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. On an almost non-stop schedule, all five were involved in demoing the site, answering questions, conducting meetings, or visiting other booths. The Influuent Five were joined at times by Texas FreshAIR representative Beena Koshy (UT System Office of Technology Commercialization assistant vice chancellor), as well as UT Arlington’s Office of Technology Management representatives Teri Schultz (director) and Sharon Ngwenya (licensing associate). Hundreds of connections were made, and scads of leads were brought back to be compiled into a mailing list, so that we may keep these contacts apprised of Influuent‘s evolution.
Was it worth it? Yes, absolutely. As mega an event as the BIO International Convention is, it is an up-close-and-personal, one-stop-shop for connecting to the biotechnology industry worldwide. In that respect, it is a lot like Influuent, which is also a one-stop-shop for finding faculty experts, innovations, and facilities. What’s great about Influuent, however, is that you never have to leave your desk to make it all happen.
Back in The Golden Age of cinema when Hollywood produced movies more like a factory than a studio, Central Casting was the place to go for background talent. Central Casting is still around, but in this day and age of reality TV programs and talk shows that pontificate on the latest news and trends, the media – whether TV, film, radio, or printed news – has to hire pundits with some legitimate expertise to earn viewers’ respect and interest.
Finding Experts for Radio, Television, and Film
So where do these programs find experts? It might surprise you to know that The University of Texas System (UT System) may just be the next new mother lode of authorities to fill the demand. With its newly launched Influuent™ website and search tools, UT System can find an expert for just about any topic, including science, medicine, engineering, transportation, energy, and business, to name a few. A free, easy-to-use online searchable database of researchers and resources, Influuent’s Experts Network provides a gateway to more than 15,000 UT System researchers who have written nearly 110,000 publications over the past five years.
Although Influuent is geared mainly to the research world and the commercialization of technology – i.e., industry meets the laboratory – it proves to be beneficial in other areas, as well. Casting directors, news programs, and conference directors can also tap Influuent’s free search capabilities to locate an expert interviewee, event speaker, spokesperson, or even expert witness.
What’s the Competition?
Interested to know what existing resources were available online for finding experts, I did a simple Google search and located several companies that tout their ability to do just that. I have included a few results below.
- CastMyReality.com appears to be one of the very few online resources that specializes in connecting realty TV and talk shows, scripted television programs and films, as well as news programs and other factual-based programs, with knowledge experts across a myriad of fields. Experts pay a monthly membership fee of as much as $20 to post their personally-written bios.
- Zintro.com boasts more than 100,000 experts (mostly across business and technology) in their network. Users explain their needs, and Zintro sends a list of 6-12 experts from which to choose. Users are charged a service fee for any engagement initiated through Zintro’s system.
- Kolabtree.com describes itself as a “marketplace for experts.” Users describe their projects and what kind of researcher they are looking for, and Kolabtree provides a list of experts to bid on the project. The user pays Kolabtree who, in turn, pays the expert.
- trexpertwitness.com is the online face of Thomson Reuters Expert Witness Services. Their team selects some experts, sending their bios (sans name) to the user. There is a cost if the user hires an expert from the Thomson Reuters’ network.
Finding Experts Through Influuent
What makes Influuent stand out as a research resource is the fact that it gives users the power to search across all UT System campuses for faculty experts on any topic from architecture to zoology. More importantly, it allows them to do so for free and with full search control, something the other companies listed above do not. Additionally, a user can immediately access a full biography, photo, location, specialty, published works, and contact information of the expert, rather than waiting for a third party to supply the information.
It stands to reason – whether testifying in court, being interviewed on a TV or radio talk show, or consulting on a film – an expert adds authenticity to a claim or concept. And as more media outlets spread their net for pundits, casting directors may need to develop a larger wellspring of expert guests to feed their needs. Looks like UT System’s Influuent may just be the media’s next Central Casting.
For more information about Influuent’s launch, read the May 14, 2015 press release “UT System launches free online database to connect industry with thousands of world-class researchers.”
Influuent™ Launches Today
May 14, 1998 may mark the airing of the last episode of Seinfeld on NBC, but May 14, 2015 denotes the first official day that Influuent, UT System’s cutting-edge web portal, goes live on the Internet. The Influuent website launched this morning after Stephanie Huie, vice chancellor of the Office of Strategic Initiatives (OSI) at UT System, presented the finished product to the UT System Board of Regents’ (BoR) during their meeting today in Austin, Texas.
Initial feedback and reactions from the Board include Chairman Paul Foster, “I think it’s fabulous,” with Regent Wallace Hall, Jr. agreeing, “This [Influuent] is a very exciting tool you have been developing.”
Influuent is UT System’s free, online searchable database that allows the private sector, academic researchers, and government agencies to find thousands of renowned researchers, experts, and facilities across the Systems’ campuses and health institutions – in one spot, quickly and efficiently.
UT System has the distinction of being the first major university system in the nation to launch such a database. In addition to hosting two very powerful tools – Find Experts and Find Funding – the Influuent website also provides valuable resources for intellectual property and technology transactions, research centers and institutes, clinical trials by institution, faculty awards, and more.
Influuent’s Find Experts tool serves as a gateway to more than 15,000 UT System researchers, involved in such areas as science, medicine, engineering, energy, transportation, and business, to name a few. Searching by keyword, concept, last name, or published abstract, a user can access not only a faculty researcher, but his/her entire research team, including partners, facilities and equipment, as well as other faculty in the same academic department.
Who Should Use the Influuent Website?
Faculty can use the tools to find funding opportunities and research partners and to build their research networks. Scientists can find colleagues with similar
interests or find experts in areas that can help them take their work to the next level. The developer of a new life-saving vaccine can find an engineer who has invented a delivery device that can be used in difficult conditions. He/she can then find an expert in African languages and culture who can help the project team come up with a plan to deliver the vaccine at the local level effectively. Additionally, the media can search for an expert to talk knowledgeably about a topic, and content/event managers can find speakers for conferences or trade publications.
Once an expert is identified, users can contact him/her directly through the Influuent website by filling out one short form to contact all the selected experts. These potential partnerships can boost the state’s economy, as well as make Texas more business-friendly, and foster cross-institution collaborations among UT researchers from different campuses and institutions.
Influuent’s Find Funding tool is available to the UT institution network. The tool helps users find the right funding opportunities, discover new sources of funding, analyze the funding environment, identify collaborators working in areas of similar interest, and receive targeted notification of opportunities.
Additionally, a user can retrieve research papers and articles produced in more than 110,000 publications. Influuent’s search tool scans and analyzes every publication in Scopus, which is considered the largest abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed research literature.
Because of its expertise in data management, the Office of Strategic Initiatives has led the Influuent project, but it has done so in partnership with the UT System offices of Health Affairs, Academic Affairs, and of Technology Commercialization. The idea for Influuent was hatched back in 2014 when Stephanie Huie and Patti Hurn, vice chancellor for Research and Innovation, asked the UT BoR to support the creation of a tool and website that supports the UT System Innovation Framework 2014 initiative. The BoR granted $5.54 million over three years to support the project.
Nancy Nilson, a Nebraska Native, is a newcomer to the Office of Strategic Initiatives at The University of Texas System. As OSI’s Senior Administrative Associate, Nancy will support Vice Chancellor Stephanie Huie, as well as OSI staff. She holds a BS in Science in Business Administration from the University of Nebraska (Lincoln).
No stranger to higher education, Nancy recently served as business services administrative assistant for the vice president at the Round Rock campus of Texas State University. Prior to that, Nancy was the exhibits manager for the Texas Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation & Dance (TAHPERD).
Nancy began her career as a special projects coordinator for the Department of Solar Energy at her alma mater. Additionally, she has worked in direct mail marketing and computer software consulting – in the U.S. and internationally.
Married, with a teenage daughter, Nancy enjoys travel, crafts (beadwork, tatting, and sewing), and attending Austin festivals and sports events.
UT System Is Exhibiting at South by Southwest® Interactive
So, you don’t have a South by Southwest Interactive wristband, but you really want to attend a SXSW event that showcases health, medical technology, innovation, research collaborations, entrepreneurship, and business. No prob. We have the perfect SXSW Interactive venue for you – The University of Texas System Future Finders – coming your way on Saturday, March 14.
This is only the second year UT System has been a part of the SXSW Interactive Festival, an Austin-based über event considered to be “an incubator of cutting-edge technologies and digital creativity.” This year’s Future Finders sessions I and II promise to engage, educate, and entertain even the savviest Interactive fan. The event will offer presentations, panels, and exhibitors, allowing attendees to preview tomorrow’s technology today.
This is the first year that UT System’s Office of Strategic Initiatives (OSI) will be exhibiting at SXSW. OSI will present a sneak preview and demonstration of its UT System-wide research experts data warehouse – Influuent™ – to SXSW attendees and invited guests. Influuent is a free, online interactive search tool that allows users to discover experts from all UT institutions in any area of expertise or focus. Whatever the interest may be, UT has an expert – whether it is medicine and healthcare; law; transportation; communication; oil and gas; energy; engineering; or business and finance.
Influuent will feature all UT System researchers on the site, allowing viewers to:
- Discover experts in all topics and review their publication history
- Search more than 15,000 faculty research profiles from across UT System institutions
- Explore interactive maps of research collaboration networks
- Explore potential funding opportunities
- Find forms, policies, and additional information on whom to contact and how to move forward
Presently, anyone can search the individual Experts sites at all UT System health institutions. However, in May, OSI will release a system-wide website and tool that will allow interested parties to search across all websites from a single place. The SXSW Future Finders event offers attendees the chance to preview and use Influuent before its official launch.
Though OSI is leading the Influuent project because of its expertise in data management, it is in partnership with the UT System offices of Health Affairs, Academic Affairs, and of Technology Commercialization. The idea for Influuent was hatched back in 2014 when Stephanie Huie, vice chancellor for OSI, and Patti Hurn, vice chancellor for Research and Innovation, asked the UT System Board of Regents (BoR) to support the creation of a tool and website that supports the UT System Innovation Framework 2014 initiative. The (BoR) granted $5.54 million over three years to support the project. For more information, please see my blog UT System Experts Fosters Strategic Public-Private Research Partnerships.
This year, in addition to thought-provoking exhibitions and demonstrations, the Future Finders event will include two separate panel discussions covering health, education, collaboration, and interactive technologies. Panel members include renowned professors and scientists. Cecilia Conrad, Ph.D. – vice president of the MacArthur Fellows program – will act as moderator.
Part I – (3:30 – 4:30 p.m.)
- Laurence James Neil Cooper, M.D., Ph.D. – Section Chief of Pediatric Cell Therapy, UT MD Anderson Cancer Center. Providing new hope against aggressive childhood cancers by developing and manufacturing targeted therapies.
- Thomas Geisbert, Ph.D. – Professor of microbiology and immunology at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston is currently testing potential Ebola vaccines and treatments. He was named one of Time magazine’s Persons of the Year for 2014 for his research on fighting the Ebola virus.
Part II – (5:00 – 6:00 p.m.)
- Maninder (Mini) K. Kahlon, Ph.D. – Vice Dean for Partnerships & Strategy, University of Texas Dell Medical School.
- Robert Metcalfe, Ph.D. – Professor of Innovation and Murchison Fellow of Free Enterprise in The University of Texas at Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering.
Discover Influuent at Future Finders at SXSW Interactive on March 14. Let UT System help you find answers to future questions.
@UTFactsOnline, #FuturFindr, @Influuent