The Innovation and New Ventures Office (INVO) at Northwestern University announces a new partnership with Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago Research Center (Lurie Children’s Research Center) to provide invention disclosure, licensing and commercialization support.
“Before we established this partnership, there was no formal technology transfer office at Lurie Children’s Research Center,” said Alicia Lӧffler, PhD, Executive Director, INVO, and Associate Vice President of Research at Northwestern University. “We are enthusiastic about working with the faculty to develop and commercialize advancements in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases that impact pediatric health.”
The new partnership grew out of discussions between Mary J.C. Hendrix, PhD, President and Scientific Director, Lurie Children’s Research Center, Philip V. Spina, CRA, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Lurie Children’s Research Center and Dr. Lӧffler. Dr. Hendrix holds several patents and was working with INVO to identify prospective licensing and commercialization opportunities for her laboratory’s research. This research encompasses the detection and targeted treatment of cancer cells with stem cell properties that have a set of specific prognostic biomarkers. One of the cancer cell markers identified, called Nodal, is associated with aggressive and advanced forms of melanoma and other cancers.
“One of the biggest challenges has been marketing and licensing the diverse technology at Lurie Children’s Research Center,” said. Dr. Hendrix. “For investigators who try to navigate this process on their own using their modest contacts, it can be incredibly discouraging to get negative or non-responses from companies and investors. This partnership will allow our faculty to directly benefit from extensive experience INVO has in these areas.”
Mr. Spina echoed Dr. Hendrix, saying, “We aim to create a large portfolio of inventions and discoveries from Lurie Children’s Research Center that will attract venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and corporate leaders to help bring these technologies to market. By coordinating our efforts with INVO, we can open doors for both institutions, increase the annual number of invention disclosures, and enhance our chances to commercialize our basic and clinical science research.”
INVO assists researchers with invention disclosure, patenting, licensing, marketing and startup creation. Researchers are paired with an invention manager to guide them through this process as well as assess the commercialization potential of their invention. The life science practice at INVO consists of invention managers and entrepreneurs, several of whom specialize in developmental therapeutics and device development and can provide additional guidance. In addition, numerous resources, includingcommercialization clinics and the Chicago Innovation Mentors program can help demystify the commercialization process and make it easier for researchers to navigate successfully.
“In spite of the resources INVO will provide, demonstrating practical and translational benefit of laboratory discoveries can be difficult for researchers with limited resources and grants that are often confined to funding the discovery process,” said Dr. Hendrix. “One of the key ways to accomplish this is to secure funding to bridge the gap from invention to commercialization.”
With the leadership of Dr. Lӧffler, Northwestern University has created new opportunities for gap funding to support the movement of promising research into self-supporting commercial pathways, as well as connected investigators with other possible funding sources. An example of these new opportunities is a one-time Proof-of-Concept award developed by INVO in conjunction with the Northwestern University Clinical and Translational Sciences (NUCATS) Institute. In 2013, INVO awarded Proof-of-Concept awards totally $200,000 to biomedical research with commercialization potential.
“NUCATS works very closely with INVO to support innovation, albeit in different capacities,” said Donald Lloyd-Jones, MD, ScM, Director and Principal Investigator, NUCATS. “This partnership is very exciting because it has the potential to strengthen the relationship between Northwestern and Lurie Children’s Research Center, as well as support the movement of research from the lab to patients, and ultimately, to the world-at-large.”