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U Pitt and UPMC investing $200M in new immunotherapy center and its start-ups

By Jesse Schwartz
Published: February 14th, 2018

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and the University of Pittsburgh unveiled plans Tuesday for a massive immunotherapy center that they say will bring new important innovations as well as start-ups and corporate partnerships.

The 200,000 square foot UPMC Immune Transplant and Therapy Center (ITTC) will develop  immunotherapies to fight cancer, improve transplant success rates, and promote healthy aging. UPMC will largely fund and operate the center, while the Pitt will renovate the center’s building to house labs, offices, and eventually start-ups and industry partners. A $200 million venture fund will be used to support ideas past the typical hand-off to outside companies.

Dr. Steve Shapiro, UPMC’s chief medical and scientific officer, says the funds will seed ideas and quickly develop them inside the institutions, instead of going through lengthy grant funding and external commercialization processes. “We would like [researchers] to turn their scientific breakthroughs into clinical programs and commercial products with urgency,” Shapiro said, “and we want them to be able to do that within the confines of the university and UPMC.”

Mark Shlomchik, chair of Pitt’s Department of Immunology, sees the center as a kind of self-contained immunotherapy ecosystem. “Research is always done by a community, not just by one person, so our ability to bring them together in this one place, where they can really interact and collaborate, I think is going to bring a lot of synergy to the research,” he said. “The potential there is great for putting researchers next to incubator companies and small companies so that we can much more quickly and immediately take things that we learn in the lab and start the process of developing them and bringing them to patients.”

The center is also expected to be a magnet for industry partnerships, building on Pittsburgh’s already vibrant innovation ecosystem. “Today opens an exciting new chapter in our ability to partner with others to advance the University of Pittsburgh’s mission of using knowledge for society’s gain,” Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said. “We are creating an unprecedented ecosystem — one that connects basic science discoveries from Pitt with life-changing advances from UPMC while leveraging the catalytic power of industry partners. It’s a combination that will transform immunotherapy care and help us tackle some of medicine’s greatest challenges.”

Source: GeekWire

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