Overcoming obstacles, standing up for quality, and the power of collaborative perseverance were hallmarks of the UMB Entrepreneur of the Year Presentation of William F. Regine, MD, FACR, FACRO, on Nov. 1.
Regine, professor and the Isadore & Fannie Schneider Foxman Chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, detailed his 10-year mission to develop the $200 million Maryland Proton Treatment Center (MPTC) in his 35-minute speech “A Journey — Inspired by Patients and Driven by Passion.”
“If you come to our department you will see this picture of the eagle,” said Regine, executive director of MPTC. “We are all focused on flying higher than anyone. It’s the highest flying bird out there. We always want to fly higher than anyone in radiation oncology.”
MPTC’s grand opening in June, four years after its groundbreaking, shows how Regine and his team are soaring. The 110,000-square-foot facility is the first and most advanced of its kind in the Baltimore-Washington region and will provide nearly 2,000 cancer patients a year with precision technology to treat cancer.
Regine showed those assembled at a packed Life Sciences Conference Center in the UM BioPark how the pencil-thin beams of radiation precisely target the tumor, avoiding the residual damage to surrounding tissue often found in other therapies.
Under Regine, the Department of Radiation Oncology was making rapid gains in 2006, when he was first approached about developing a proton center. The technology and the need were there, he recalled. Plus it was a complementary tool to UM’s Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center.
But there was also a massive price tag. “It cost in excess of $150 million to build a proton treatment center. When I said that to a group everyone kind of backed away and no one was reaching in their pocket to pull out their wallets,” Regine said as the audience laughed.
But Regine persevered. He and eight interdisciplinary colleagues visited the few other proton treatment centers around the country to see what worked and more importantly didn’t work “and what they wished they could do better.” Then he engaged a diverse group to create a proton center here.
A letter of intent was signed and the parties agreed on some basic principles. The investors would finance and own the center. Regine’s team would be responsible for the clinical management, professional services, and “most important to me we would determine the staffing ratios across the center and what level of infrastructure they would have to provide so we could provide excellence in our care and our mission to our patients.”
When Regine was asked two years into the agreement to let the investors decide the staffing ratios and infrastructure needed, he refused, backed by School of Medicine Dean and UMB Vice President for Medical Affairs E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA. A new partner was found and MPTC’s “aim for excellence, flying higher than any other group” remained intact.
It was definitely a team effort. During the planning phase, Regine developed a partnership with Maryland Proton Treatment Holdings (formally known as Advanced Particle Therapy LLC of San Diego, Calif.) to successfully raise funding sources; engaged Varian Medical Systems of Palo Alto, Calif., the world leader in radiation oncology technology, to provide the most advanced form of proton therapy; and enabled the School of Medicine's Department of Radiation Oncology (University of Maryland Radiation Oncology Associates P.A.) to lead the project. He integrated MPTC with the Greenebaum Center and UM Medical Center/System by locating the center within the BioPark at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB).
And today, the Maryland Proton Treatment Center is saving lives, as evidenced by several videos Regine showed during his presentation. “Phoebe’s Journey of Hope” showed how a 5-year-old Australian girl and her family were embraced by MPTC and its concierge team. Former University System of Maryland Chancellor William “Brit” Kirwan, PhD, who attended Regine’s presentation, was shown “ringing the bell” of hope with his wife, Patty, a UM oncology patient, at MPTC’s groundbreaking.
“There’s no greater hope you can give a patient than for them to know every possible tool is being used in their treatment,” Regine said. “With the help of so many people in this room, we are making this possible.”
Before Regine’s presentation, UMB’s Office of Research and Development recognized 30-plus researchers whose inventions had received patents in the past year.
“We had over 140 faculty teams give us invention disclosures of their ideas in the last year,” said James L. Hughes, MBA, chief enterprise and economic development officer and vice president at UMB. “We’ve done three dozen technology licenses getting those ideas out into the private sector and last year we did by far the most number of startup companies based on University technology. We are now at 10 startup companies out of tech transfer at UMB and our UM Ventures partners at the University of Maryland, College Park also created 10 so between us 20 companies are on their way.“
UMB President Jay A. Perman, MD, also lauded students on hand at the event, part of UMB’s Founders Week celebration. “Through the President’s Entrepreneurial Fellows program, students help faculty commercialize their technologies,” he said. “It’s definitely been a win-win so far. Students get their feet wet on both the science and business ends of tech transfer. And faculty get some much-needed assistance bringing their discoveries to market.”