Having spent the better part of my professional career nurturing relationships between big pharma and academia, it’s interesting to observe that there are still areas which are underserved. Case in point, the medical device industry is increasingly finding value in the halls of academia, especially those with powerhouse engineering departments. But who has time to walk the halls looking for PIs who may or may not be open to industry collaboration?
I recently attended the AUTM Annual Conference (Association of University Technology Managers) in Phoenix with about 2,000 of my close personal friends, being this was my 20th year in attendance. I’ve been a volunteer in AUTM almost from my first conference in 1997. This has resulted in some great relationships and a keen awareness of the needs and challenges with industry-academic collaboration, which my technology transfer professionals frequently vocalize.
A full house at the Medical Device workshop, where James Kaiser from HOYA and Jamie Kemler from Stryker connect with potential partners after the session on Medical Devices.
While I spent 35 years in big pharma and saw the emergence of the golden age of tech transfer, I am somewhat new to the medical device world. I now have a fresh perspective and keen appreciation for what I see as an emerging growth area for industry-academic relations. The concept of “outsourcing discovery” has been popular in biopharmaceuticals for many years and includes pre-competitive consortium aimed at validating targets and disease pathways.
It also has given birth to the Open Innovation concept, where big pharma tries to share its wealth of knowledge and research tools, including compound libraries that they have developed during the biotech boom years with academic PIs in the hopes of garnering deeper working relationships and learning early about interesting emerging new science. This interaction is facilitated of course by sponsored research offices and tech transfer officers eager to promote their stable of entrepreneurial scientists.
The One-on-One Partnering area was the place to meet and greet, make introductions and share areas of mutual interest. Sophearay Smith (AdvaMed) and me posing between meetings!
New to AUTM this year was a workshop on the Medical Device Industry. A packed room of more than 100 academics came to hear senior scouts from Stryker and HOYA discuss their interactions with academia. The most frequent question was “why aren’t there more big medical device makers here looking for inventions?” It would seem that indeed, academia does have a wealth of intellectual property, ideas and inventions which most likely will become the next wave of breakthrough discoveries in the healthcare device world.
I heard about high-tech materials, robotics, imaging, artificial organs and point of care diagnostics and virtual monitoring devices available to license or as investments in spinout and startup companies. While it seems that many medical device companies have not embraced technology scouting with the same enthusiasm as their biopharma colleagues, that is clearly changing based on my own observations.
AdvaMed is actively supporting their members’ interests in innovative technologies in addition to the important advocacy that is the hallmark of the trade association based in Washington, DC. At The MedTech Conference powered by AdvaMed, facilitated one-on-one partnering is a growing priority with the addition of MedTech Connect. Last year in San Jose, more than 20 top tier academic institutions participated, bringing with them their vast portfolios of IP and ideas, including access to would be entrepreneurs.
With Philadelphia as the host city for The Medtech Conference powered by AdvaMed in September 2018, the number of participating academic TTOs is expected to double. Facilitating new relationships with the medical device industry and creating opportunity for investment and partnering is now embedded in both AUTM and AdvaMed. Sounds like a winning partnership and a chance to be ahead of the curve for savvy academic and industry business development professionals.
See you in Philly!