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BIO Partnering: Intersection of Academic and Industry

May 22, 2014
Earlier this monthBIO hosted a Google Hangout to discuss BIO Partnering: Intersection of Academic and Industry. We had an excellent lineup of guests discussing emerging models in tech transfer and translational research, novel collaborations between industry and academia, and of course the pivotal role that BIO’s 1-on-1 Partnering and tech transfer programming at #BIO14 will play in advancing industry-university relationships.

Since we didn’t get a chance to address all of the excellent questions that were submitted during the Hangout, we decided to do a written Q&A with some of our guests. For in-depth discussion of these and related topics, be sure to connect with our panel in San Diego (via our One-on-One Partnering system or myBIO). We also encourage you to check out the Translational Research Forum and make plans to visit the Alliance Pavilion at the 2014 BIO International Convention in San Diego next month.

For this Q&A, we are joined by Kanad DasProgram Manager at SPARK, Stanford University; Mark CrowellExecutive Director of U.Va. Innovation, University of Virginia & BIO Tech Transfer Committee Chairman; and Melissa FitzgeraldHead, Strategic Research Partnerships-San Diego at Pfizer

Later this week, we’ll be speaking with Mari Serebrov, Sr. Editor Washington DC, BioWorld.

Kanad DasProgram Manager at SPARK, Stanford University

Can you name the top 5 practices that makes the SPARK program ROCK or EPIC FAIL material?

1. Individual passion for affecting patient care/outcomes

2. Advisers who are engaged and willing to volunteer their time

3. Alignment of goals between PIs and management teams

4. A clear understating of the go/no go criteria

5. Data driven decisions, rather than emotion

What are the common pitfalls for industry-university partnerships? What are the best practices to avoid them?

Typically things go sideways when the people involved aren't working together. The science is the science, it'll work or it won't. This go slow, or not at all when the people can't agree on the key experiments and strategy. I always tell people that it's like a marriage, you have to be on the same page.

The FDA recently identified translational research as an area where there is a need for a better federal infrastructure. Kenad, do you have any suggestions on what elements might be beneficial to include in a federal translational research structure?

Things like medicinal chemistry, formulation, toxicology, and ADME PK/PD, if offered inexpensively to academics, could be fantastic. These are not common academic pursuits and simply don't exist at the vast majority of places, as well as the fact that they're not always used. A central repository of these services could greatly accelerate the process.

Mark Crowell, Executive Director of U.Va. Innovation, University of Virginia & BIO Tech Transfer Committee Chairman

Great programs like SPARK help get inventions across the 'valley of death'. But is there a need for more funding to get enough inventions to even cross the 'valley of death'?

Yes, this funding is critical. There has been much discussion at NIH and in Congress about creating a new funding mechanism to support highly focused, clinically-relevant translational or proof-of-concept work, using best practices developed in the Coulter Translational Partnership initiative as examples. We at UVa have almost $4MM in different pot of money to do this kind of work, some of which comes from industry, philanthropic sources, or foundation groups.  Projects which are funded are licensed, patented, commercialized at much higher rates – and create more value quickly for the university and various stakeholders.

Is anyone licensing techs without patents?

Yes – a number of universities (including UVa) license a number of research reagents, transgenic models, and some other technologies where patent protection is either not available or not necessary to move to the market.

We need to pool the great hustler index, all the people we know who want to take companies out.

I’ll take a stab at this one – if I understand your question correctly, I think you’re inquiring about the challenge in finding the right sort of “road show enabled” entrepreneurial management talent who can work with universities, faculty, corporate partners and investors to help “stand-up” early stage companies, create a fundable business plan, launch the company with seed or first-round capital, and grow the company toward a major proof-of-commercial-readiness process. Many in the university community now report that the lack of this sort of management talent is a bigger obstacle to success in commercialization than is the availability of seed or venture capital. Many of us are creating entrepreneur-in-residence, mentoring, i-Corps, or related initiative to try to address this major gap.

Melissa FitzgeraldHead, Strategic Research Partnerships-San Diego at Pfizer

Are you seeing viable mHealth, DigitalHealth startups in your universities?

Yes-please see recent story on Akili labs, which recently partnered with Pfizer:

Melissa, could you please repeat the areas of interest for Pfizer licensing-in opportunities?

Most BioPharma companies regularly update their areas of interest for external partnerships on their websites. Pfizer’s partnering brochure can be found at: