|Office supports MUSC entrepreneurship
|by Cindy Abole
South Carolina patients and others will soon benefit from new cures,
treatments and therapies for cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases
and a variety of serious illnesses thanks to MUSC’s establishment of
the Office of Industry Partnerships (OIP).
OIP is a not-for-profit corporation founded by the MUSC Foundation for
Research Development (FRD) to better support the institution’s efforts
to develop stronger relationships with the commercial sector,
particularly regarding clinical and basic science research support from
industry. This initiative grew from FRD discussions with the private
sector on how to best market and promote MUSC resources that are
attractive to industry.
Staffed and led with experienced personnel in industry research and
development, the OIP will provide MUSC researchers with resources to
aid in relationships with industry. OIP personnel can assist with
growing current relationships as well as bringing new opportunities to
researchers and their departments.
For researchers, the procedures for preparing industry proposals remain
the same with the added resource of the OIP's availability to assist in
budget and proposal preparation, according to Stuart Knight, who will
lead the OIP in business development opportunities. The office is
partnering with MUSC’s South Carolina Clinical Translational Research
(SCTR) Success Center to provide additional resources to MUSC
researchers. By engaging OIP at an early stage, faculty can use
competitive analysis skills and other tools to optimize budgets.
“Our goal is to facilitate long-term relationships with industry and to
establish an integrated business development process for the benefit of
industry sponsors and MUSC faculty members,” said Knight, OIP director.
“We want to assist the research community and serve as a communication
link between our scientists and industry sponsors to evaluate ideas,
identify resources, create new or enhanced funding opportunities and
advance MUSC relationships with industry to the next level,” he said.
MUSC President Ray Greenberg, M.D., Ph.D., is supportive of the campus'
research growth in this direction.
“We have seen excellent growth in federal research funding through the
efforts of our researchers, the Provost's Office, and our research
support infrastructure. We felt we needed to apply that same level of
focus to relationships with the private sector,” Greenberg said.
The new office supports the institution’s template for growth during
the next five years as outlined by the 2010 MUSC Strategic Plan. Campus
leaders are already working to outline details in four focus areas:
interprofessionalism, globalization, entrepreneurialism and
innovation/technology. With the country’s unsteady economic climate and
declining state funding support, MUSC joins other research universities
looking for ways to engage the private sector to create new funding
opportunities and partnerships. This not only diversifies MUSC's
funding portfolio, but it also creates a climate where new therapies
and cures can move that much faster to the patient by leveraging the
“The strategic plan for the Medical University targets innovation,
technology and entrepreneurialism as major emphasis areas, all of which
will be enhanced with stronger partnerships within the private sector.
The Office of Industry Partnerships is an important vehicle for helping
to promote these relationships,” Greenberg said.
Knight joined the OIP this summer after he was competitively selected
by the FRD from a group of well-qualified candidates for this new
position. Knight came to MUSC from the Southern Research Institute, a
contract research organization based in Birmingham, Ala., that provides
a broad spectrum of contract drug development services to the global
pharma, biotechnology and medical device communities. Southern Research
Institute has close ties to the University of Alabama-Birmingham, so
Knight is familiar with the world of academic research. Previously,
Knight also worked as the global director of business development at
Chicago-based PreLabs LLC, where he gained extensive experience
partnering with industry through the commercialization of underutilized
research capacities of several major academic research institutions.
To generate support, Knight has enlisted the help of active and
successful investigators who have benefitted from entrepreneurial
activity. Charles D. Smith, Ph.D., joined MUSC in 2006 and holds a
South Carolina Center for Economic Excellence Endowed Chair, is
director of the Drug Discovery Core Facility and the Charles and Carol
Cooper Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences. Smith’s research
interest are focused on drug discovery particularly relating to
sphingolipid signaling systems in cancer and inflammation.
Smith's research led him to establish two drug discovery startup
companies. Apogee Biotechnology Corporation is an early stage drug
discovery company focusing on the treatment of cancer and inflammatory
diseases, and Vortex Biotechnology Corporation, which focuses on the
development of drugs to treat prostate cancer and certain leukemias.
Both companies feature collaborative research work with the Hollings
Since June, Knight has been actively meeting with MUSC administrators,
deans, department and divisional leaders, and campus investigators
about OIP services. He is identifying research services offered by MUSC
that are most marketable to industry. Additionally, he is determining
where outsourced research dollars are currently spent by industry and
where future trends may lead to outsourcing needs tomorrow.
“The challenge is that not every university scientist knows or is
experienced in navigating the regulatory and financial pathway for
product commercialization,” said Smith.
“These processes are very different from basic research activities. As
researchers, we need to change our mindset from conducting pure
research to developing biomedical discoveries into commercial products.
The Office of Industry Partnerships will provide resources for faculty
by helping to facilitate interactions with industry throughout the
spectrum of a product's commercialization process.”
In an effort to reach out and promote collaborative entrepreneurial
support, Smith chairs a biotechnology interest group as part of MUSC’s
SCTR initiative. The group meets regularly with faculty, students and
post-doctoral staff who seek information on venture startups,
commercialization and funding resources. According to Smith, members
are a resource for each other as colleagues share expertise,
experiences and related interests.
Associate Provost for Research Stephen Lanier, Ph.D., believes that
MUSC will be a significant player in the world of university-industry
partnerships. “When an institution’s research funding reaches more than
$200 million, there exists many entrepreneurial opportunities. The
Office of Industry Partnerships will help us grow in this area where we
hope to compete, contribute and lead,” he said.
According to Lanier, OIP is clearly one of several important entities
providing enhanced infrastructure for the rapidly developing research
enterprise on campus.
From Knight’s perspective, OIP can play a significant role in MUSC’s
quest to become an even greater research institution. By leveraging the
clinical and basic science resources on campus and partnering
strategically with industry, the OIP believes that MUSC will achieve
its next leap forward, he said.
For more information, visit OIP at http://www.musc.edu/oip.
Friday, Aug. 6, 2010