Ohio State University is taking a more hands-on approach to getting technology from its labs to market, from regulatory help to prototype building, in hopes of boosting the odds of a commercial success.
“We have taken the active initiative of taking early stage inventions such as pharmaceuticals, engineering and other inventions and perform the proof of concept ourselves,” Matt McNair, Ohio State University vice president of economic and corporate engagement, said in an email. “This was not done in the past and is a new approach to enhancing our success in commercializing inventions from the university.”
So far, Ohio State hasn’t had a big pharmaceutical blockbuster that brings royalties rolling in by the millions, like Northwestern University’s fibromyalgia drug or Ohio University’s treatment for a form of gigantism. But the school’s working to change that, he said.
OSU has licensed drugs from its veterinary school, including a feline leukemia vaccine that was a comfortable royalty source until the patent expired. Now the school is trying to help along developments in human medicine: In 2013 Ohio State created the Drug Development Institute, which guides medical school and pharmacy researchers through the first steps toward getting a drug approved for market, applying industry knowledge to help them avoid time-consuming or costly missteps. The office has formed research collaborations and spun out a company.
In the engineering school, the university created the Center for Design Manufacturing to build prototypes of faculty inventions.
It’s also created eight different funds to help early technology take the next development step. It starts with small grants for what’s called “proof of concept” – showing that an invention not only works but would be in demand by its target users – which makes the technology “less risky and more valuable” to potential investors or licensees, he said. For ideas matured into a spinoff company, there’s now two university-backed venture capital funds.