OHSU and MMI Group Announce Joint Venture Plans

07/13/00    Portland, Ore.

Oregon Health Sciences University and Medical Marketing International of Cambridge, England, signed a letter of intent Thursday, July 13, 2000, concerning the parties' plans to establish a joint venture corporation to commercialize certain OHSU technologies. The company will be incorporated and located in Oregon.

The joint venture corporation's purpose will be to facilitate use and development of new technologies. The corporation will commercialize technologies emanating from OHSU and create biomedical spin-off companies.

David Best is chairman of MMI Group PLC Europe, the most successful technology management company in Europe. He was a member of the international business development team for biotechnology at Roche before founding MMI in 1988. MMI was Europe's first private-sector technology management business and floated on the OFEX market in 1995. Best was co-founder of Polymer Pharmaceuticals, founder of the Bioscience Innovation Centre, which created Europe's first biotechnology business incubator. He is on the boards of many emerging bioscience businesses, including Endozyme, Viratis and Oncosense, and is chairman of CellFactors, a company developing cell-based therapies for neurodegenerative and skeletal diseases.

Soon - within the next two years - we will see the study of all the genes in a living organism go out of the laboratory into the daily practice of medicine through the development of biotechnology. To quote Lawrence Fisher: "Health care will shift from a focus on detection and treatment to a process of prediction and prevention. Fortunes will be made."

Academic health centers will be central to this shift from ivory tower investigations to the revving economic engine whose growth industry is biotechnology. OHSU, Oregon's academic health center, is uniquely poised to be the catalyst for this state's emerging gene technology industry.

"This is an important first step toward establishing an effective management process and funding for spin-off biotechnology companies," said OHSU President Peter O. Kohler, M.D. "It is critically important that we prepare now for emerging opportunities - especially in the field of gene technology that will result from completion of the Human Genome Project. Without such preparation, Oregon will be left in the dust, both economically and intellectually."

What does all this mean to Oregon?
A study by the Milken Institute in Santa Monica, Calif., found that the fast-growing high-tech sector is increasingly determining which metropolitan areas are succeeding or failing. In Milken's analysis, high-tech activity is responsible for up to 65 percent of the difference in economic growth among various metro regions. And, Milken found, "research centers and institutions are undisputedly the most important factor in incubating high-tech industries."

The nation is primed for a new age in which the knowledge we have gained about the most basic elements of our existence - the gene - will fuel a biotech economic boom. Already there is a visible groundswell of high-tech growth thanks to the active involvement of universities such as OHSU.

National data indicate that for every $2 million invested in research, there is one new discovery. Every investment Oregon makes in biotech research will be repaid many times over in discoveries that benefit public health, create employment opportunities, promote economic development and contribute to the future of Oregon. The more we develop OHSU and other Oregon institutions into world-class research institutions, the more other high-tech firms will locate their operations here. Genetic research is becoming the cornerstone of pharmaceutical development, and where research facilities are located, pharmaceutical companies follow.

What else is OHSU doing in this new growth industry?
Kohler participates on a task force that is looking at ways to facilitate marriages among high-tech companies and biomedical institutions such as OHSU. He has introduced the concept of a new state investment in life sciences and biomedical research to Oregon's legislative leadership.

The university's Science, Technology and Research park at OHSU's west campus in Hillsboro, which includes the Oregon Regional Primate Research Center and the Neurological Sciences Institute, is expanding. The west campus's new Vaccine and Gene Therapy Center is just one example out of many of OHSU's commitment to the new growth industry of gene technology.

Oregon is still in the growth curve of biosciences, but it is the fastest growing state in America in terms of NIH funding. It has many successes it can point to with pride, far more than just a few pockets of excellence.

"OHSU is a major catalyst for the bioscience industry, having introduced about 400 inventions since 1985 and averaging three inventions a month since 1997," said Todd Sherer, OHSU's director of technology and research collaborations. "To date, OHSU has earned more than $5 million from management of its inventions. Much of this income is returned to inventors and departments for further research.

"The university's Department of Technology and Research Collaborationshelps plan, direct and coordinate technology transfer, providing leadership strategies for collaborations and establishing start-up companies."