UofL awarded $3 million to speed technologies to market

UofL announced April 22 that a grant from the National Institutes of Health will combine with matching funds from the university to create a new $6.1 million initiative to commercialize discoveries made by UofL researchers.
by Gary Mans, HSC communications and marketing last modified Apr 23, 2015 10:38 AM

UofL announced April 22 that a grant from the National Institutes of Health will combine with matching funds from the university to create a new $6.1 million initiative to commercialize discoveries made by UofL researchers.

UofL is one of just three institutions in the United States selected as a Research Evaluation and Commercialization Hub(REACH) by the NIH. The REACH award consists of $3 million over three years matched by an additional $3.1 million from UofL.

“The funding from the REACH grant significantly advances UofL’s ability to bridge the gap between a great idea and the marketplace,” said UofL President James R. Ramsey in announcing the award. “The university will continue to supply a robust pipeline of diverse technologies and other discoveries along with the infrastructure and expertise required for translational research. The REACH grant will provide additional resources needed to bring that research to market.”

“This award illustrates the success UofL is witnessing in its mission to become a premiere metropolitan research university,” said William M. Pierce Jr., executive vice president for research and innovation. “We know it is not enough only to make great discoveries; we must find ways to bring those discoveries to the marketplace where they will benefit the people of our city, state and beyond. This grant provides significant support to do so.”

Executive Vice President for Health Affairs David L. Dunn, MD, PhD, said the work that the grant supports is a natural outgrowth of UofL’s already demonstrated success in research. “UofL’s commitment to invest in talent and infrastructure already has paid dividends in translational research. UofL research that has led to new discoveries includes a first-in-class anticancer drug, a method to prevent organ transplant rejection, a treatment that can reverse damage caused by heart attack and a protocol that allows people with spinal cord injury to regain voluntary movement of their once paralyzed limbs. The REACH funding will enable us to translate even more of these types of new discoveries to the market.”

About the Research Evaluation and Commercialization Hub grant

The REACH grant will create UofL’s “ExCITE Hub” –reflecting its function to “Expedite Commercialization, Innovation, Translation and Entrepreneurship” to increase the success rate and speed at which biomedical research is translated into products that bring a positive impact on health.

The ExCITE Hub has three major aims:

  1. Identify the most promising technologies from UofL researchers and provide funding for product definition studies;
  2. Promote the commercialization of selected products; and,
  3. Expand education, experiential and networking opportunities for stakeholders such as researchers, other faculty, students and others within the university.

Paula J. Bates, PhD, is principal investigator on the grant and will direct the ExCITE Hub program. Bates is an associate professor in UofL’s Department of Medicine and a researcher with the James Graham Brown Cancer Center. Eugene Krentsel, PhD, acting director of UofL’s Office of Industry Engagement, and Donald Miller, MD, PhD, director of the cancer center, will serve as co-principal investigators for the program. A team of faculty entrepreneurs and technology transfer professionals also will support the mission of the hub.

“We have given the ExCITE Hub a structure that will overcome the obstacles that can impede translating research from the research bench to the marketplace,” she said. “This structure comprises five innovative features, working in concert, that make the ExCITE Hub genuinely one-of-a-kind in the field of research commercialization.”

Those features are:

  • The ExCITE Hub is a geographically focused program to expedite operations and maximize the impact on the local ecosystem.
  • An innovative governance structure has been developed to integrate achievement of the three aims of the program and “avoid the creation of silos,” Bates said.
  • The program will proactively integrate education into the approach to continue to foster an entrepreneurial spirit in research.
  • A technology development grant program in the ExCITE Hub will provide mentored direction and provide for early and continued interaction among scientists, technology transfer staff and industry consultants.
  • Emphasis will be placed on consciously improving academia-industry relationships by increasing opportunities for mutual understanding, ensuring a robust technology pipeline and responding quickly to industry needs.

The NIH selected UofL along with the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis and the Long Island (N.Y.) Bioscience Hub, a consortium of Stony Brook University, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and Brookhaven National Laboratory, as the three recipients of REACH funding.

REACH is based on an initiative created by the NIH’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute called the NIH Centers for Accelerated Innovations. The program is a public-private partnership whose objective is to change how to identify and develop innovations with scientific and commercial potential. The effort utilizes industry-style project management to determine technologies that are poised to have the greatest potential to launch into the marketplace.