Tech Transfer eNews Blog

TTO leaders reveal how to tap “gold mine” of data for licensing

By Jesse Schwartz
Published: May 8th, 2019

The collection of data by research institutions is a critical part of innumerable projects, and the size and scope of those data sets is often massive. But what some TTO leaders may not realize, said Bin Yan, director of the Office of Technology Transfer at the University of Miami, is that “you may be sitting on a gold mine.”

In a panel discussion at the recent AUTM 2019 conference in Austin, TX, Yan noted that the University of Miami Hospital and two specialty hospitals — Sylvester Cancer Center and Palmer Eye Institute, together with Jackson Memorial and VA — comprise the second largest “health district” in the nation. The data they collect, she said, could be turned into a “crown jewel.”

“University hospitals are always looking for ways to monetize, but careful considerations are needed, [including] IP rights, and personal information as data,” Yan noted.   

“When you talk with companies in partnerships, they inevitably ask for data and access to it,” noted fellow panelist Jarrett Rieger, senior director of innovation alliances and general counsel for Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, which treats over 60,000 patients a year.

Moffitt created a data “warehouse” in 2010, he said. “We were a little ahead of our time,” he added, noting that the center partnered with Oracle to create it. “Our current data elements come from about 475,000 patients,” Rieger reports. “It includes aggregated/integrated data from a wide range of sources; we created a front-end searching tool using … data from a number of different sources, including our EMR, but in addition, cancer registry data, outcomes, billing and diagnostic codes, information about which patients consented to our generic tissue tracking protocol, and a piece from our pathology group which reports on the number of tissue samples available. It’s a very powerful infrastructure with lots of users — researchers, clinicians, admissions, patients through our portal. And now, companies are coming to us wanting to access the data.”

Rieger also shared a summary of M2Gen, a for-profit subsidiary of Moffitt launched in 2006 in partnership with drugmaker Merck that integrates and analyzes clinical and molecular data. M2Gen studies patients over their lifetimes.

Early on, he continued, the focus was on collecting tissue samples from 15-plus community centers that were then sent to Merck for Rosetta-generated gene expression profiles. “It was very successful; we met all our milestones, profiling around 20,000 tissue samples,” said Rieger. Then, he continued, the business model evolved significantly.

“We went from one pharma partner to multiple partners,” Rieger observed. “Today, there are half a dozen or so. In addition, we moved from community hospitals to cancer centers. And instead of collecting tissue samples from patients in different stages of disease, we now focus on end stage and high-risk cancers.”

“Our goal is to be able to do trial matching,” Rieger adds. “M2Gen searches to find a patient population and inform pharma what sites to run the study on. In order to be successful, it has to partner with pharma to generate revenue.”

Joseph Jankowski, chief innovation officer at Case Western, said he saw similar, but not identical, opportunities and challenges at universities and hospitals. “In the last two or three years I’ve seen a big thirst for data at the licensing level,” he said. In fact, he asserted, licensing data can fulfill the same positive outcomes as licensing inventions. However, he added, the commercialization of data/information presents a unique set of practical and ethical challenges.

A detailed article on licensing data appears in the April issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. To subscribe and access the full article, along with the publication’s entire 12-year archive of best practices and success strategies for TTOs, CLICK HERE.

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