All that JAZ

Legend has it that on June 10, 1752, Benjamin Franklin ventured out into a rainstorm with a kite and a key, and a great discovery was made. More than 267 years later, creative minds are venturing into a building with a kite-shaped facade on Jefferson’s campus with the goal of making even more great discoveries.

The Jefferson Accelerator Zone—or JAZ building—at 137 S. 10th St. is designed to evoke the genius and inventiveness of this nation’s forefather and to inspire innovative activities at Jefferson.

“The JAZ building represents the vision behind the institution and the focus on innovation,” says Neil Gomes, chief digital officer and executive vice president for Technology and Consumer Experience at Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health. “It is a physical space that enables students, physicians, clinicians, faculty, patients, and others in the community to come and brainstorm together, to think of new ideas in ways to improve healthcare and education.”

The JAZ building is the physical representation of Jefferson’s Innovation Pillar, which brings together scientists, clinicians, researchers, entrepreneurs, and inventors to create tomorrow’s solutions to today’s problems. Transforming the brick and mortar into a space that cultivates thoughts and ideas was made possible by a generous donation by dedicated supporters Dominic and Michele Frederico, who have championed programs and projects at Jefferson, including the institution’s Neuroscience Network, Neurointensive Care Unit, Trauma Division, and many more.

The two-story building is home to conference and meeting rooms filled with white boards and digital display monitors to encourage creativity, foster entrepreneurial ideas, generate outside-of-the-box thinking, and produce the next “big idea.”

Some of the big ideas that have already come to fruition have led to more than 50 patent submissions over the past three years—20 have been granted and more are pending, says Heather Rose, PhD, JD, vice president of technology licensing and start-ups for Thomas Jefferson University. Those patents include novel methods for detecting diseases; new treatments for rare, fatal disorders; textiles with antimicrobial properties; and specially designed bottle tops that allow those with physical limitations to open them with ease.

When you bring together design students and medical students and present them with problems, they come up with very unique solutions—not because they are design students and medical students, but because they are students. They are looking at things in a new way; there’s a freshness to their approach.

Heather Rose, PhD, JD Vice President of Technology Licensing and Start-Ups

“When you bring together design students and medical students and present them with problems, they come up with very unique solutions—not because they are design students and medical students, but because they are students,” Rose says. “They are looking at things in a new way; there’s a freshness to their approach.”

The program also encourages Jefferson scientists, researchers, and clinicians to join forces with companies to create and manage the production and commercialization of inventions and discoveries.

“The JAZ is unique—it’s a place for creativity and collaboration,” says Anuj Shah, MD, a third-year emergency medicine resident and founder of the Physician Executive Leadership program, a student-run group that engages students in key healthcare topics, such as economics, policy, safety, law, and patient experience. “It creates an environment where students can learn from leaders in the business and medical fields. It’s something every medical school will have—or should have—in the future.”

The building, designed by Philadelphia architect Cecil Baker, hosts events such as the Innovation Engagement Speaker Series, hackathons, and more. It serves as the epicenter of ideas spurred on by the entrepreneurial spirit, providing a flexible workspace to allow collective and creative talent to take flight.