Posted November 4, 2010

Partnerships take ideas from lab to market

One of the most important aspects of any successful university research enterprise is the incubation of new ideas and the work of research faculty in developing them into new discoveries. But just as important is bringing those discoveries from the laboratory to the marketplace to benefit the public. 

One example is a cancer therapy developed at the Fels Cancer Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Biology in Temple’s School of Medicine that is about to enter a Phase III FDA-approved clinical trial through an agreement with Onconova Therapeutics, a local private biopharmaceutical company.

Partnerships like this play an important role in Temple’s research enterprise through the licensing and commercialization of these technologies.

“Our objective is to be able to translate new discoveries that are developed here at Temple into products and services that can be, or help create, a solution to an existing real-world problem by bringing those discoveries out of the lab and getting them into the marketplace,” said Stephen G. Nappi, director of technology transfer operations in Temple’s Office of Research Administration.

Nappi said that his office sees more than 30 new technologies developed by Temple researchers each year. If a technology — whether it is a drug, medical device, diagnostic or even software  — is deemed to have market potential, he said, the university will file a patent or copyright to protect Temple’s intellectual property rights.

Once the patent or copyright application is filed, the technology transfer office initiates a process to determine the appropriate vehicle to attract further investment. In some cases an established company provides additional research funding to further develop the technology, in others a firm licenses the rights to develop and market the technology. 

“If we go with an established company, such as a local biotech or pharma company, we then enter negotiations to establish milestones that we will have with that company about the development of that technology because, first and foremost, we want to see it get to market,” said Nappi. “Then we need to establish a value on that technology that is fair to the university, and could include a percentage of sales, milestone payments, annual licensing fees, and sometimes, research funding that comes back to the university parallel to the technology going out.”

Temple has partnered with institutions in the
BioLaunch 611+ Keystone Innovation Zone to
assist in bringing new technologies to market.

Another avenue for bringing a new technology to the marketplace is the creation of a start-up company. “Not only would Temple have an equity stake in the new company, but also we would be able to keep the company local,” said Nappi.

In fact, this past summer, Temple partnered with BioStrategy Partners, a virtual life sciences incubator, and institutions in the BioLaunch 611+ Keystone Innovation Zone to attract two Pennsylvania Innovation Grants from the Commonwealth to assist in bringing new technologies to the marketplace.

“The state wants to see that by investing this money in Temple, it will come back in the form of a company that can move the technology forward to create an economic benefit for the Commonwealth,” said Nappi. “If we create a local start-up company within the region, it provides economic benefits here.” 

Regional partnerships are very important to the success of tech transfer. In addition to BioStrategy Partners, Temple continues to increase partnerships with regional stakeholders, such as Ben Franklin Technology Partners, University City Science Center and BioAdvance.

“These organizations provide funding and business resources that are vital to the advancement of early stage technologies through the commercialization process,” said Nappi.