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Purdue’s link to Boomerang Ventures illustrates the value of third-party help for TTOs

By Jesse Schwartz
Published: November 23rd, 2021

A detailed article on Purdue’s use of Boomerang Ventures to assist with commercialization of its healthcare-focused IP assets appears in the November issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. To subscribe access the complete article, or for further subscription details, click here.

There has been a trend developing recently wherein university TTOs — even large ones — work with outside parties to realize commercialization goals by adding expertise or resources they may not have in-house. A case in point: The newly announced partnership between the Purdue Research Foundation’s (PRF) Purdue Foundry and its Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC) and Boomerang Ventures, a venture studio and fund which will assist in developing Purdue-related health care start-ups and health care-related IP yet to reach the market. Purdue Foundry and OTC will provide lists of start-ups and IP to consider, and Boomerang will vet the lists to determine which seem most promising.

Purdue is far from a small tech transfer organization, with more than 30 staff between the OTC and the Foundry. But its leaders make clear that the only prize they’re after is getting innovations to market, and getting more hands on deck — specialized hands — is helping them do just that.

“We view Boomerang as a commercialization partner — identifying some promising technologies in life sciences and the healthcare sector that need further de-risking and possibly have an interest in doing a start-up, but without a team or a funding plan,” says Brooke L. Beier, PhD, vice president of the Purdue OTC. “We felt Boomerang would be a great partner to help those entrepreneurs bring their ideas to fruition.”

“At a high level our mission at PRF is to commercialize the discoveries made by our university’s faculty researchers and scientists; our goal is to get things into the marketplace, where we believe they can have an impact,” adds Wade Lange, PRF’s vice president and chief entrepreneurial officer. “Having created and led start-ups, I know it’s hard work. Most don’t succeed, so anything we can do to give our technologies a better shot at success, we’ll experiment with. The reality is we do not always have all of the skills and capacities to bring an idea to the marketplace.”

For one thing, he notes, Boomerang is very focused on medical and health technologies. “For the right technologies they are the perfect partner to hand the reigns of a start-up off to, so they can commercialize more rapidly than a ‘scratch’ start-up company would do,” says Lange. “They have team members who have done product development, mostly in medical devices; they have people who know how to work with the FDA effectively, and to work with contract development companies if that’s what’s appropriate; and they have commercialization people who have launched products in the medical healthcare space,” he continues. “We do not have that in-house.”

“We’re made of people who are passionate about bringing healthcare ideas to life,” shares Audrey Beckman, chief innovation officer at Boomerang. “We do it in a venture studio, which is more like an incubator or an accelerator on steroids. We build companies; we do not just develop technologies. We create commercialization plans and build companies, and take them maybe from an idea on a piece of paper to an exit, through the ‘Boomerang Launch System’ building process.”

“With our people, processes, and capital resources network, we try to compress that window of commercialization — to make it as small as possible,” adds Oscar Moralez, founder and managing partner at Indianapolis-based Boomerang. “Many technologies are discovered early and have lingered. We compress the process so they can get out into the market as quickly as possible.”

Lange makes it clear this is not a totally new direction in supporting start-ups for the Foundry, but rather another option to explore. “It will probably be a minority of how we do things,” he notes. “The majority are handled in-house; we help [a founder] build a company around the technology, put a little capital into it and help it succeed. The Foundry is 100% focused on start-up companies; we start 20-25 a year.”

However, he emphasizes, “in some cases Boomerang will be the perfect company to do a start-up with; they’ll come in with a broad set of resources and help us be successful.”

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