Yale and UConn are collaborating to launch a new initiative to spur the creation of biotechnology companies in Connecticut.
With a $10 million grant from Connecticut’s Bioscience Innovation Fund, the new effort will be called Program in Innovative Therapeutics for Connecticut’s Health or “PITCH” and will be created by the Yale Center for Molecular Discovery at Yale’s West Campus in West Haven.
Led by the Yale center’s director, Craig Crews and Dennis Wright of UConn, the new program will help translate research already being conducted at state schools into private investment in new commercial ventures.
“The U.S. pharmaceutical industry is undergoing a major transformation driven by patent expiries, diminishing drug pipelines and the high cost of conducting internal research and development,” Crews said. “This is the optimal time to launch new biotech companies and this program is designed to increase the speed in which it is done in our state.”
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Managed by Connecticut Innovations, BioInnovation Connecticut aims to speed up the commercialization of bioscience discoveries, according to a statement from Yale. That’s made possible by two key funds, the statement said: The Connecticut Bioscience Innovation Fund and the Regenerative Medicine Research Fund.
“This program directly aligns with the overall mission of our fund,” said Margaret Cartiera, vice president and fund manager of BioInnovation Connecticut. “Not only does this program create collaborative links among Connecticut’s college institutions, but it also encourages the commercialization of research coming out of the universities.”
She said the premise of PITCH is to take “early, early stage therapeutic ideas for pharmaceuticals to address a disease need and helping them move forward to commercialization and pharmaceutical utility.”
Cartiera said the collaboration will harness the “different strengths of the two universities” as there will be certain experimentation that Yale researchers have more experience with and other cases where UConn researchers will take the lead.
“We are really trying to get more therapeutic, clinically relevant therapies out there at a faster pace,” Cartiera said.
She said that once the program is “humming,” PITCH may be broadened to include any public or private universities or colleges in the state that want to participate.
While Yale has had some success with transferring technology to the commercial world, UConn does not yet have a strong track record in the conversion of its medical research into commercial enterprises that produce significant revenues.
Michael Cantor, chairman of the board of Connecticut Innovations, said that under the leadership Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and UConn President Susan Herbst, UConn has in recent years put far greater emphasis on research and its conversion to commercial products. “Everything is on the increase,” Cantor said. “There has been a strong emphasis at making UConn an engine of job creation in the state.”
Yale has been working to commercialize research for a longer time, he added. “They have had more money to work with than UConn has.”
He said the collaboration between the schools will result in “continued acceleration in commercialization of technology, some of which will be new start-ups here in the state.”