University-Industry Engagement Week

Tulane, LSU Health join forces in their efforts to garner more industry partnerships


By David Schwartz
Published: April 30th, 2019

The sum of the whole, they say, is often greater than its parts. That premise is clearly behind the partnership that has developed between Tulane University and LSU Health as they seek to broaden their collaborations with industry. Their success in working together to meet the needs of industry could serve as a strong hint to schools who share a geographical location, but who don’t yet combine their efforts in industry engagement.

The partnership was visibly expressed last year with the “academic research expo” BIO on the Bayou, a collaborative event which will be expanded this year by the move to the New Orleans BioInnovation Center (NOBIC), with NOBIC acting as a third co-sponsor.

While the fact that Tulane is a private university and LSU a public institution does not seem strange to the partners, it is apparently unusual. “The partnership just made sense; we enjoy working together,” says James R. Zanewicz, RTTP, chief business officer at Tulane, Louisiana state lead for the Southeast Xlerator Network, and Chairman of the Alliance of Technology Transfer Professionals. “But several companies have said we were the only public/private partnership they know of.”

LSU and Tulane, he adds, “play the strengths and weaknesses of both and each other, and we can channel to one or the other,” Zanewicz says.

“There are restrictions state institutions have that private ones do not, and there are also benefits of having a state institution on your side,” adds Patrick Reed, director of technology Management at LSU Health and site lead on the network.

The partners seem to have a little wind at their backs. The Southeast Xlerator Network, announced in October 2018, is one of four regional hubs being created through the Institutional Development Award (IDeA) Program developed for states that have had historically low National Institutes of Health research funding and disproportionately few SBIR and STTR grants. The life sciences accelerator hub is backed by a consortium of 24 academic institutions, including LSU Health and Tulane. Through NOBIC, the network will provide technology transfer expertise, engage leading industry partners, and promote an entrepreneurial culture throughout the region. In addition, NIH awarded more than $149 million in grants last fiscal year to life sciences investigators at LSU Health and Tulane University School of Medicine, Tulane School of Public Health & Tropical Medicine, and Tulane National Primate Research Center.

“We are geographic neighbors — literally blocks from each other — and we can walk to the New Orleans BioInnovation Center,” notes Reed. “We’re small institutions in a small community, but we can build a larger critical mass and players will take us more seriously.”

In addition, he says, “we thought we were competitive in research, but James and I found out we were much more complementary — for example, we’re both studying breast cancer, but different types of breast cancer. So, we have a much larger variety of research strengths to market to the outside.”

“We not only have the internal showcase, but we’ve really started [external marketing] because we were at the same external business development event and we partnered together,” adds Zanewicz. “When we approached a company we’d say, ‘You’ll get two for the price of one.’”

Tulane joined up with LSU at BIO “last year for the first time — big time,” he continues. “We had traditionally gotten 60 to 70 meetings, but we had 110-plus side meetings with them [as partners]. We have a really good rhythm and understand each other’s strengths.”

The “neighborhood” is actually bigger than just the two of them, Reed adds. “We don’t have schools or a pharmacy, but another neighbor, Xavier University, does, so we refer them,” he explains. “This builds the ecosystem and will be a net benefit to both of us. Anything you want from a research university, from a local to a global perspective, you can do that — and it’s rare for industry to get that in one spot within a couple of city blocks.”

Reed recognizes that “we are not Boston or San Francisco, but we’re kind of proud of that; we cost less, we’re hungry for the partnerships, and companies notice that. We treat them as a customer.”

A detailed article on the Tulane-LSU Health partnership appears in the April issue of University-Industry Engagement Advisor. For subscription information, CLICK HERE.

Posted under: University-Industry Engagement Week