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University-Industry Engagement Advisor

Despite the financial risks, new drug discovery vehicles proliferate on campus


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: June 19th, 2019

There is nothing like a big hit in the pharmaceutical space to put a university’s long-range plans for new research and infrastructure on a solid footing. In fact, large pharmaceutical companies are increasingly leaving the early-stages of drug development to universities and other research institutions. However, while opportunities in the drug discovery space abound, there is no denying the long, difficult road involved with bringing a new therapeutic to market.

It generally takes years or even decades to win FDA approval for a new drug, and the financial requirements of such a journey go well beyond what most federal grants will provide. One further complication: Pharmaceutical companies and other biotechnology investors are expecting a new drug discovery to be further along in its development than in years past before risking their own funds on its future prospects.

Nonetheless, undaunted by the immense challenges involved, a number of universities are sharpening their focus on drug discovery, developing specialized centers or programs — and even separate companies — aimed at identifying their most promising discoveries early on so they can then wrap them in a cocoon of expert guidance and support. The bet is that with added resources and a more strategic focus, more drug candidates will ultimately make it into clinical trials, significantly upping the chances for commercialization success.

One of the latest technology transfer-driven efforts to establish a drug-discovery vehicle comes from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Association (WARF), the storied TTO for the University of Wisconsin (UW) in Madison, WI. Aptly named WARF Therapeutics, the new organization is being headed by Jonathon Young, who spent more than 20 years in the pharmaceutical industry before joining WARF eight months ago.

Drug discovery is clearly a priority for WARF as the TTO has set aside millions of dollars in internal funding that will funnel through WARF Therapeutics toward selected drug discovery projects over the next five to eight years, explains Young. “There is a big gap where RO1 [National Institutes of Health Research Project Grant] funding ends and where pharmaceutical companies will get interested,” he explains. “So the strategy of WARF Therapeutics will be to provide not only resources … but capabilities and industry experience that was previously not accessible to UW professors in order to advance these programs further and to generate chemical assets that are novel, and that most importantly can be patented.”

Young adds that it is these patented chemical assets that will provide the value and inflection point to attract biotechnology companies, pharmaceutical firms and venture capital. However, he acknowledges that the business of drug discovery is very high risk. “For every 100 novel biological targets that are discovered and put into a drug discovery process, 99% of them will fail at some point in time,” he says. “Even those that get to Phase One clinical trials, 90% of those drugs are going to fail.”

However, Young notes, some reasons why drugs fail can be anticipated and avoided earlier in the development process if the proper processes are in place. “For example, sometimes the drug is not potent enough, sometimes it is not selective enough which leads to adverse side effects, and sometimes the drug does not reach the region of the body with the necessary concentrations to be effective,” he says. “One way to think about de-risking is to demonstrate that the drug has been optimized such that it succeeds in those areas that are very common failure points for a lot of other drug [candidates].”

A detailed article on university efforts to create drug development vehicles appears in the June issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. For subscription information, CLICK HERE

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Federal Circuit denies U of Minnesota sovereign immunity in inter partes review proceedings


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: June 19th, 2019

The Federal Circuit recently determined that the University of Minnesota (UMN), which is an arm of the state of Minnesota, is not protected by state sovereign immunity when its patents are challenged in inter partes review (IPR) proceedings. continue reading »

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SBIR/STTR Policy Changes: New Challenges and New Opportunities


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: June 19th, 2019

The Small Business Administration has just released a significant update to the SBIR/STTR policy directives and the changes took effect May 2nd. The final version contains significant policy changes that affect data rights and protections, data marking, rules related to multiple public funding sources, expanded opportunities with Phase III awards, and relaxation of rules related to multiple research institute partners.

Coupled with the National Science Foundation’s new requirement of “project pitch” before submission for an award and the NIH’s updated FOA for 2019, there are lots of new and important moving parts for TTOs, start-ups, research managers and partners to maneuver through — and one misstep can jeopardize your entire award status. At the same time, the new rules introduce valuable opportunities for expanded funding and new partnerships.

To clarify the various agencies’ directives and give you clear guidance on how to navigate successfully, Technology Transfer Tactics’ Distance Learning Division has teamed up with two experts to bring you this detailed webinar: SBIR/STTR Policy Changes: New Challenges and New Opportunities. Join us on June 26th for detailed guidance from SBIR/STTR expert Kristen Parmelee, President of PCG, Inc., and UNeMed Business Development Manager Joseph Runge, JD, MS. For complete program details and to register, CLICK HERE.

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Survey finds UC Berkeley is the top school for funded spinouts – by far


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: June 19th, 2019

A recent survey by Crunchbase has ranked the University of California-Berkeley (UCB) the top school in the world for tech start-ups that attract early-stage funding. continue reading »

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UC-San Diego teams up with incubator to launch new fintech start-ups


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: June 19th, 2019

The University of California-San Diego (UCSD) is teaming up with local start-up incubator EvoNexus to support entrepreneurs who are focused on financial technology, or “fintech.”

Through the partnership, UCSD aims to encourage more of its students and alumni to enter EvoNexus’ new accelerator program, which was created strictly to help develop and launch fintech start-ups.

Robert Sullivan, dean of the Rady School of Management at UCSD, comments, “What Evo needs are the best and brightest ideas coming from start-up companies, and that’s exactly what we produce. In San Diego, we can create an industry in finance through the use of technology. This is an opportunity to do that.”

According to EvoNexus CEO Rory Moore, UCSD has already been a valuable source of entrepreneurs for the incubator, with 19 founding teams that came from the university. Overall, Moore says, “the success rate of ventures from UCSD is stunning.”

The two entities are looking for technologies from a wide range of disciplines related to fintech, including analytics, data science, blockchain, cybersecurity, mobile payments and insurance technology.

Source: Government Technology

In Impact and Performance of University-Linked Business Incubators and Accelerators: World Benchmark Report, you’ll get critical data extracted from 259 incubation programs worldwide – and learn how your program compares while identifying areas for improvement. For complete details, CLICK HERE.

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Bristol-based start-up raises £750K to commercialize quantum computing software


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: June 19th, 2019

A start-up founded by researchers at the University of Bristol, the Bristol Quantum Information Institute and University College London (UCL) has secured £750,000 (over $939K US) to commercialize its software for quantum computers. continue reading »

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Intellectual Property Valuation Case Law Compendium, Third Edition


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: June 19th, 2019

With Intellectual Property Valuation Case Law 3rd Edition you can ensure that you have the most current analysis on how courts across the U.S. view key business valuation issues. This compendium includes in-depth analysis on nearly 200 court cases, along with insight and advice from top valuation experts. You’ll get court case abstracts along with online access to full text opinions focused on disputes over IP value, and how that amount is calculated.

The Intellectual Property Valuation Case Law Compendium also includes a summary table so you can quickly and easily reference cases by name, type of case, date, court, and state/jurisdiction. For complete details and to order, CLICK HERE.

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U of Michigan start-up plans to reduce side effects from prescription drugs


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: June 19th, 2019

A University of Michigan (UM) start-up aims to increase the precision of prescription drugs to reduce the impact of harmful side effects, which currently affect millions of Americans. continue reading »

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U of Arizona start-up offers sustainable solution to dust pollution in dry climates


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: June 19th, 2019

A University of Arizona start-up has developed a technology to address air pollution caused by dry air and blowing dust in arid climates. continue reading »

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Columbia U partners with Alexandria Real Estate Equities to launch new life science accelerator


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: June 19th, 2019

Columbia University has formed a partnership with Alexandria Real Estate Equities to launch a new accelerator for early-stage life science companies. continue reading »

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Northeast UK universities launch £100M start-up fund


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: June 19th, 2019

A group of universities in Northeast UK is launching a £100 million (over $125M US) fund for academic start-ups in the region. continue reading »

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Certified Patent Valuation Analyst designation expands to Europe


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: June 19th, 2019

The Certified Patent Valuation Analyst designation is expanding its training programs to Europe through a new marketing partnership with the European Institute for Entreprise and Intellectual Property (IEEPI). continue reading »

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