International collaboration and innovative partnerships with industry, government, speeding bench-to-bedside discoveries
The products that result from biotechnology commercialization can be as varied as the patients they ultimately benefit. Whether it’s an inhaled therapeutic that stimulates innate immunity of the lungs to prevent the spread of bacterial and viral infections, or a novel tuberculosis test that allows doctors to diagnose the infectious disease within minutes, the partnerships between academic institutions, their spinoff companies, industry, and government are the driving force behind advancing these products to the market — and on faster timelines than ever before. The above-mentioned technologies borne from Texas A&M Health Science Center discoveries are just a few examples of how new, more innovative approaches for the translation of biotechnologies are being adopted worldwide.
During the George H.W. Bush Sixth China-U.S. Relations Conference, global scientific and academic leaders from Texas A&M and Peking University Health Science Center shared how their institutions are approaching technology transfer and commercialization. As part of the international “think tank” sessions, participants discussed the challenges and opportunities that currently exist when translating new technologies from the laboratory into products for clinical use, and tangible solutions for overcoming barriers they face. The roundtable highlighted an overall effort at Texas A&M Health Science Center to accelerate biotechnology innovation and further explore opportunities for public-private and multinational partnerships – a measure that can not only help increase the number of technologies in development, but also decrease the time and cost associated with bringing them to market. In the case of a new drug or vaccine, which traditionally can take more than a decade and cost upwards of a billion dollars, such advances translates to hundreds of thousands of lives saved.
“We want to highlight the opportunities for building new partnerships that will streamline the commercialization process, and ultimately, accelerate the development of life-saving therapies to treat everything from cancer to emerging infectious diseases and other life-threatening conditions,” says LauraLee Hughes, director of the TAMHSC Office of Technology Translation, who chaired the roundtable discussion.
A crucial part of this dialogue includes assessing the current trends and models that are in place in countries around the world to facilitate technology translation, and then identifying how those can be impacted by factors such as the government, business climate, access to capital, and even ability to attract and maintain entrepreneurial talent.
In the U.S., biotechnology commercialization is increasingly characterized by multiple academic and medical institutions pooling their resources to collaborate with individual industry partners, and in China, government plays a strong role in providing funding to bring products to market, roundtable speakers said during a panel discussion.
This focus on public-private partnerships and multinational collaboration comes at a pivotal time, as university technology transfer offices are shifting their focus away from simply identifying discoveries, and toward protecting the intellectual property (IP) around those discoveries, before then licensing the IP to a third party for further development.
“We are seeing more and more academic institutions and technology transfer offices becoming involved in advanced development and translation, which often includes spinning out new companies to continue the development work that is required outside of an academic laboratory to bring new products to market,” Hughes says. “Often, they are also working with industry partners who are sponsoring development of a specific technology. In addition, many government agencies now offer specific incentives and programs that are focused on commercialization and provide funding to bring new technologies through intermediate and advanced phases of development on the path to the commercial market,” says Hughes.
New models are being pursued with the primary focus on improving public health, whether the technology in development is a preventive measure for chronic disease or a vaccine that the federal government keeps on hand for mass emergencies.
“Patients ultimately stand to benefit from these efforts that will impact how innovative research is brought to the clinic, and ideally will enable that to be done in a more cost-effective and timely manner,” says Hughes. “Achieving this goal requires a collective effort among universities, industry, government and other partners from across the world to ensure the most promising therapies reach the market and are able to have a positive impact on global public health.”