Company created in culture of innovation at MUSC moves to bigger HQ

December 15, 2023
Two men seated in a room in front of a whiteboard. They are casually dressed.
Former MUSC employees Matt Hebbard and Jonathan Yantis. Photo provided

People may think of the Medical University of South Carolina as just a school or just a hospital, but the success of a company born on the Charleston campus may help change that. QuicksortRx, which helps hospitals make better pharmacy buying decisions, has been so successful that it’s moving into bigger digs and getting ready to hire more than three dozen new employees. 

Co-founder Jonathan Yantis, a former network engineer at MUSC, said he’s ecstatic about the company’s success. “I didn't know we'd get here. I didn't think we'd get here. But I knew it was possible.”

A big part of what made that possible for him and co-founder Matt Hebbard, a former MUSC pharmacist, was the support they got while working at MUSC. “We started this innovators’ meetup back in the day. And Yuri Peterson was a big part of that. He's still at MUSC,” Yantis said. Peterson is an associate professor in the College of Pharmacy’s Department of Drug Discovery and Biomedical Sciences.

“And a bunch of us just sort of got together, all the inventors, and just started drinking beer with each other and talking about what could be done at MUSC.”

Hebbard was one of those inventors. He was trying to manage pharmaceutical spending. After he teamed up with Yantis, their work took off. “We started building more and more people within the Pharmacy Department into a team,” Yantis said.

Yantis described the problem they were trying to solve. “If I went into their department and I said, ‘Well, what are you paying for daptomycin, 500 milligram vials?’ They'd be like, ‘Well, we could run some reports for you, and we'll get back to you.’ But they wouldn't even know what their net average cost for a vial of medication was at the hospital – it was so obscured behind rebates and multiple prices and very complicated. And so we just went in and brought total visibility to that space.”

Sign says patient counseling in a pharmacy. A woman in a white lab coat is talking to another woman. 
QuicksortRx helps hospitals get real-time data and analysis to lower medication costs. Photo by Sarah Pack

MUSC gave them the time to work on it, with support from what is now the Zucker Institute for Innovation and Commercialization. The institute was formed last year when the Zucker Institute for Applied Neuroscience and the MUSC Foundation for Research Development consolidated. The resulting institute has supported more than 2,000 innovations. 

Institute CEO Todd Headley said his team works with inventors on both the University and the clinical side of MUSC and emphasizes flexibility. “Whether their innovations may be ultimately licensed and commercialized by an existing company, or if their interest lies in creating their own company and spinning that out of the institution, we want to do both of those things.”

The institute also looks for ways to make sure that innovators understand the resources available and how the process works. “What we're trying to do is really just support MUSC in its mission of innovating and impacting people's lives,” Headley said.

MUSC enterprise chief innovation officer Jesse Goodwin said that’s important because innovation is one of MUSC’s key values. “We want MUSC to be known as a place that empowers people to solve pain points. The health system even has an annual goal through which we challenge our leaders to identify a pain point and come up with a creative solution. This is a great example of a team doing just that,” she said, referring to QuicksortRx.

MUSC still owns the intellectual property created by its former employees, but the QuicksortRx leaders have control of it through licensing, Goodwin said. “As part of licensing arrangements, you negotiate what the terms and conditions are going to be. There are usually financial components, where a portion of the money that the company makes comes back to MUSC to further our own mission. So, it becomes a win-win.”

A win-win that has surprised even QuicksortRx’s founders. Yantis said they now work with 25 health systems across the country, helping them save money by clarifying pharmaceutical costs, needs and operations. “We weren't expecting it to be so successful.”

Now that the company is, he’s ready to bring more people into the company, providing a boost to the local economy. “We're hiring for a lot of really great jobs here in town. We let pharmacists do all of our support. And we're probably one of the highest-paying firms for engineers in town. We've got a really strong team, and so it's a cool operation here.”

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