Selected Speeches

Maryland Tech Transfer Summit

April 20, 2018
National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg

I want to quickly thank Gov. Hogan, Senators Cardin and Van Hollen, the Maryland Department of Commerce, and NIST for putting on this summit, primarily because they’ve given me a great chance to brag about UMB.

Commercialization metrics have soared at UMB over the past four years. Technology licenses have doubled. Licensing revenue has tripled. Startups have also tripled.

UMB had three startups acquired in 2017. Harpoon was acquired by Edwards for $250 million. The company is developing a surgical device for beating-heart mitral valve repair. Living Pharma was acquired by Lentigen—right here in Gaithersburg—to develop a cancer immunology therapeutic. Analytical Informatics was acquired by Philips to expand its health informatics portfolio. One of our startups sold a stroke therapeutic last year to BioGen for $120 million. It’s now going into Phase III trials. And PaxVax began sales of our cholera vaccine, the only one approved for use by the FDA.

But this success notwithstanding, we know where we have a breach in the tech transfer pipeline. It’s the gap between academic research and technology development and the stage at which most pharma companies and venture capitalists are ready to invest in the technology. Of course, Maryland has some excellent programs to help bridge this gap, including TEDCO’s Maryland Innovation Initiative and the MIPS Program.

Through UM Ventures—UMB’s tech transfer partnership with College Park—we’re adding resources to further de-risk and advance our most promising technologies. Plus, we’re building interdisciplinary teams spanning both universities that are working on medical devices and health informatics.

Since UMB and College Park started working together through UM Ventures, we’ve seen such an acceleration of our tech transfer efforts, and we’ve seen investors much more willing to jump in. So I think there’s merit to creating a larger Maryland consortium focusing on commercializing therapeutics and medical devices. We’ve been looking at interesting models across the country and adopting best practices. In some cases, those models involve multiple universities working in partnership with biotech and pharma companies. There’s a promising model out of New York—with three major academic medical centers, all co-located in New York City—jointly de-risking therapeutic targets. It’s early, but initial results look good.

The point is we have to bring the great science that’s being done in our universities and government labs together with industry expertise and industry’s absolute rigor in moving ideas to the marketplace. Working together, we can raise Maryland’s profile as a proven innovation hub, we can drive mutually beneficial collaborations, and we can accelerate drug development.

Moderator: The word “tech transfer” has been around forever, but traditionally, universities haven’t been doing a very good job of it. Why should higher education institutions be in this business? UMB has had a banner year with IP-based startups such as Harpoon being acquired. To what do you attribute this?

Technology commercialization starts with having excellent researchers and clinicians who are leaders in their fields. Jim Gammie, the co-founder of Harpoon Medical, is one of the leading heart surgeons in the country. He does over 200 mitral valve surgeries a year and he’s obsessed with providing the best possible care for his patients. That means he’s the ideal person to invent a device that could transform mitral valve surgery, which, of course, he’s done.

Creating an environment where faculty like Jim can thrive is critical. Entrepreneurship needs to be recognized and rewarded as a core academic priority—along with teaching, research, patient care, and public service.

In addition, UMB is building an entrepreneurial infrastructure. Through UM Ventures, we’ve built a team of talented technology commercialization deal-makers with extensive business, scientific, and legal expertise.

  • We connect UMB faculty with collaborators at UMCP, JHU, and in the private sector.
  • We provide seed grants of up to $300,000 to kick-start the best ideas.
  • Through the $10 million USM Maryland Momentum Fund, we make equity investments up to $500,000 in the best companies.
  • And we help our faculty and startups access the considerable resources at TEDCO and the Maryland Department of Commerce.

This array of services and resources lets our faculty focus on research, patient care, and teaching—while still participating in entrepreneurial activities.

Our capabilities have become a competitive advantage that helps us recruit risk-taking faculty from leading institutions across the country.

Moderator: UM College Park, UMB, Hopkins, and Montgomery College are making big investments in the community tie into commercialization efforts: the Discovery District in College Park, the BioPark and FastForward in Baltimore, and the Pinkney Innovation Complex in Germantown. Can you talk a bit about these latest developments and what they mean for tech transfer and commercialization at your institutions?

The UM BioPark is fundamental to our tech transfer growth. Perhaps most importantly, the BioPark’s six buildings—all of which have opened in the last 13 years—are a physical sign of our commitment to taking discoveries to the market, working with industry, and improving the community surrounding our campus.

UMB startups like Gliknik are “growing up” in the BioPark.

  • Gliknik is teaming with Pfizer to develop a drug for autoimmune disease.
  • And the company has another UMB-invented drug in the works to prevent the reoccurrence of oral cancer. It’s in Phase II clinical trials now.
  • Gliknik’s BioPark location facilitates its extensive collaborations with UMB and—just as importantly—with the other companies in the BioPark.

The BioPark is also home to established companies like Paragon and Pharmaron. Together they employ 300+ people—and they’re adding another 100 employees by the end of this year. In addition to creating jobs in Baltimore, these companies are raising UMB’s profile with pharmaceutical companies around world.

Most recently, UMB opened the GRID. It’s an innovation center located in a historic light industrial building in our BioPark.

  • The GRID surrounds health informatics and medical device companies with business assistance services, training programs, networking events, and most importantly, with our students.
  • UMB’s students across all disciplines—health sciences, law, and social work—are working together to address some of the most pressing challenges facing people in West Baltimore and around the world.

Moderator: At the University of Maryland, we see commercialization as a tool to help engage industry by connecting their business interests with our technologies. How does industry and corporate engagement fit into each of your commercialization efforts? What models or approaches do you use to make industry aware of your technologies and discoveries?

In 2017, UMB entered into over 500 contracts with 200 biotech and pharmaceutical companies to conduct $67 million of research and clinical trials.

  • This total has doubled in less than 5 years.
  • Last summer, we announced one of our largest-ever sponsored research agreements: United Therapeutics, in Silver Spring, gave us a $24 million grant to establish the nation’s first Center for Cardiac Xenotransplantation Research.

Several factors have driven this growth:

  • We’re recruiting highly entrepreneurial faculty to a new $300 million, 400,000-square-foot research building.
  • We’ve signed master agreements with 60+ companies. The master agreements enable us to begin projects within days.
  • We’re actively marketing our capabilities to industry—with a particular focus on Maryland companies. In addition to United Therapeutics, we’re working with MedImmune, Glaxo Smith Kline, Becton Dickinson, and two dozen other Maryland biotech companies.
  • To facilitate collaborations in Maryland, we lowered our Indirect Cost Rate for Maryland companies to 40 percent. This is 20–40 percent less than many other institutions.

Moderator: I personally hold 11 patents, and in my experience, generating patents was not always looked upon favorably for a researcher’s career. At Maryland, we are looking into building a culture of innovation.

What faculty systems can we influence to incentivize commercialization and invention disclosures, and how can we instill the idea that entrepreneurship and commercialization represent great student outcomes? What do you think are the pillars to a strong culture of innovation?

UMB’s mission is to improve the human condition and serve the public good. This is bold stuff. This isn’t easy. It means we have to jump into the fray, take chances, make an impact—maybe even meet with a venture capitalist or two.

  • We need excellence in faculty and facilities.
  • We need to celebrate and reward entrepreneurship.
  • We need a community of resources—like UM Ventures, TEDCO, Department of Commerce, Abell Foundation. And just like any community, we all have to talk with and work with one another.
  • We need leadership. We can’t expect our faculty to innovate if the University administration doesn’t innovate.
  • We need ambition. We should be benchmarking our programs and results against the very best in the country.

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