Skip to main content


Independence Blue Cross and Thomas Jefferson University launch medical research program, latest initiative of their collaboration to improve healthcare quality and lower costs


First two Entrepreneur-in-Residence programs target bone graft infection prevention and epilepsy research

PHILADELPHIA, PA — Independence Blue Cross (Independence) and Thomas Jefferson University (TJU) today announced the first teams selected to participate in the Entrepreneurs-in-Residence program (EIR) that is part of the Independence Blue Cross/Jefferson Health Innovation Collaboration announced last June. Two teams of entrepreneurs at TJU will receive $150,000 each to support projects that will innovatively address two important health issues – bone graft and joint replacement infection and advanced surgical treatment of complex epilepsy. The work on both projects will begin immediately.

TJU researchers Noreen Hickok, PhD and Irving Shapiro, PhD and Rothman Institute orthopedic surgeon Jay Parvizi, MD will use their Entrepreneurs-in-Residence funds to pursue promising new ways to make a longer-lasting antibiotic coating for use in bone grafts of donated tissue and replacement joints for orthopedic surgeries. Bone infections are difficult to treat. The number of primary and revision bone procedures has been projected to expand dramatically over the next 25 years, with the estimated cost of infected revisions projected to be as high as $1.6 billion by 2020. Methods of preventing, diagnosing, and treating infection must be continually improved in order to reduce the cost and complications of total joint arthroplasty, and the resulting burden on patients, clinicians, and society as a whole.

The second Entrepreneur-in-Residence is Ashwini Sharan, MD, a neurosurgeon at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital who specializes in surgery for patients whose epilepsy does not respond to medication. Dr. Sharan is pioneering techniques to more specifically identify and treat areas in the brain that cause seizures.

Dr. Sharan will work with advanced programmers to build a software platform that collects, analyzes, and stores brain imaging for epilepsy patients and applies big data analytics to give physicians and surgeons more information on how to best treat their patients. This database will help personalize the healthcare for these epilepsy patients, further facilitate diagnosis, treatments, and research, and predict outcomes for their patients and others who suffer from this disease.

“The Independence/Jefferson Collaboration is engaged in a unique kind of disruption,” said Stephen K. Klasko, M.D., MBA, president and CEO of TJU and Jefferson Health. “When an insurer and a health system jointly support an enterprise that can benefit patient care, we know we are onto something big.”

“We are fortunate to have this group of talented and highly motivated medical experts as our first Entrepreneurs-in-Residence,” said Daniel J. Hilferty, president and CEO of Independence Blue Cross. “Improving the treatment of epilepsy and preventing infections and unnecessary pain and hospitalizations for patients who have had bone grafts or joint replacement is a huge step forward for medicine, and one that we are very proud to help through our Innovation Collaboration.”

“The Collaboration’s Entrepreneurs-in-Residence program represents an important new way of thinking about how to harness clinical and research creativity and move it to a higher stage of development for future applications in real-time patient care,” said Donna Gentile O’Donnell, PhD, who led the development of the Collaboration.

About Independence Blue Cross
Independence Blue Cross is the leading health insurance organization in southeastern Pennsylvania. With our affiliates, we serve nearly 9 million people in 32 states and the District of Columbia, including 2.5 million in the region. For nearly 80 years, we have been enhancing the health and wellness of the people and communities we serve by delivering innovative and competitively priced health care products and services; pioneering new ways to reward doctors, hospitals, and other health care professionals for coordinated, quality care; and supporting programs and events that promote wellness. To learn more, visit Connect with us on Facebook at and on Twitter at @ibx. Independence Blue Cross is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

About Jefferson — Health is all we do.
Our newly formed organization, Jefferson, encompasses Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health, representing our academic and clinical entities. Together, the people of Jefferson, 19,000 strong, provide the highest-quality, compassionate clinical care for patients, educate the health professionals of tomorrow, and discover new treatments and therapies that will define the future of health care.

Jefferson Health comprises five hospitals, 13 outpatient and urgent care centers, as well as physician practices and everywhere we deliver care throughout the city and suburbs across Philadelphia, Montgomery and Bucks Counties in Pa., and Camden County in New Jersey.  Together, these facilities serve more than 78,000 inpatients, 238,000 emergency patients and 1.7 million outpatient visits annually.  Thomas Jefferson University Hospital is the largest freestanding academic medical center in Philadelphia.  Abington Hospital is the largest community teaching hospital in Montgomery or Bucks counties.  Other hospitals include Jefferson Hospital for Neuroscience in Center City Philadelphia; Methodist Hospital in South Philadelphia; and Abington-Lansdale Hospital in Hatfield Township.

Thomas Jefferson University enrolls more than 3,900 future physicians, scientists, nurses and health care professionals in the Sidney Kimmel Medical College (SKMC), Jefferson Colleges of Biomedical Sciences, Health Professions, Nursing, Pharmacy, Population Health and is home of the National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center.

For more information and a complete listing of Jefferson services and locations, visit

Media Contacts:
Laura Feragen
Jacobson Strategic Communications
215-575-0400 (office)
267-262-4309 (cell)

Donna Gentile O’Donnell Ph.D.
215-503-5111 (office)
215-205-8700 (cell)

Ruth Stoolman
Independence Blue Cross
215-241-4807 (office)
215-667-9537 (cell)