Working for Kids: Building Skills Team Emanates from Innovation Institute

Working for Kids: Building SkillsTM, led by Judy Cameron, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry was one of 29 companies to emanate from the University of Pittsburgh Innovation Institute in 2017. The team is now offering this educational program, which educates communities about child brain development and interventions needed to help children succeed later in life, through Working for Kids: Building Skills LLC. Initially, the team received a 2015 Pittsburgh Innovators Challenge (PInCh) award from the annual competition run by the university’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute. They then took first place in the 2016 Pitt Ventures First Gear commercialization program competition for Pitt innovators seeking to move their research and innovations into the market and received a National Science Foundation I-Corps L grant to further develop Working for Kids as a commercial enterprise.

Prior to entering the First Gear completion, Dr. Cameron’s research findings showed that life experiences affect the development of neural networks governing cognitive and social-emotional functions. She considered how this research could be translated into easily understood concepts for the public and began to develop the Working for Kids: Building Skills program. She collaborated with Alexandra Miragaia de Oliveira, MD, Epidemiology doctoral student and Jeanette Trauth, PhD, Associate Professor, Behavioral and Community Health Science to design four educational, interactive sessions explaining how experiences shape brain development and teaching methods to help young children develop social-emotional, language, and problem-solving skills. They teamed up with the Innovation Institute’s business mentor Robert Huemmrich to determine the potential for commercialization and decided that the program could best be disseminated through local, county, and state agencies, including family support centers and other community-driven entities. Working for Kids offers coach and master coach training sessions and an executive training program for business leaders, health care workers, and legislators.

To prepare for running the new commercial business, Drs. Cameron and Miragaia enrolled in the First Step/Second Step educational series for launching a business through the Innovation Institute affiliate Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence. 

Pitt Celebration of Innovation
The Working for Kids: Building Skills team of Dr. Judy Cameron, Professor of Psychiatry; Dr. Alexandra Miragaia, MD, Epidemiology doctoral student; and Robert Huemmrich, Pitt Innovations Institute business mentor, were recognized at the Institute’s annual Celebration of Innovation. This event recognizes Pitt faculty and students who have had their discoveries licensed or optioned from the University and are dedicated to making a difference in the world through commercial translation of their research. Pictured (left to right) are Patrick Gallagher, Chancellor; Dr. Cameron; Dr. Trauth; Dr. Miragaia; Patricia E. Beeson, Provost and Vice Chancellor; and Arthur Levine, MD, Senior Vice Chancellor for the Health Sciences and John and Gertrude Petersen Dean of Medicine.