OHSU Turns Innovations into Commercial Opportunities at Record Pace

02/21/11  Portland, Ore.

By most measures of an academic medical center’s success in fostering innovation and entrepreneurship, fiscal year 2007 was a banner year for Oregon Health & Science University.

OHSU researchers disclosed 132 inventions, more than in any previous year in the university’s history-and four times the number in 2000.

Five new startup companies based on OHSU discoveries were incorporated during the year, bringing the total to 33 since 2000 and 64 since the early 1970s.

Sixty-three nonclinical research agreements totaling $6.7 million, up 37 percent from 4.9 million in the previous year.

Income from commercialization of inventions licensed by OHSU nearly doubled to $1.23 million from $719,800 the previous year.

The market value of equity OHSU owns in six startups whose shares are publicly traded – Novacea, Inc.; Adherex Technologies Inc.; Neurocrine Biosciences, Inc.; Orexigen Therapeutics, Inc.; StemCells, Inc. and Fonix Corporation - reached $2.25 million at the end of the fiscal year, up from $1.5 million the previous year.

“We are starting to see the payoff from the research facilities made possible by the taxpayers and private donors through the Oregon Opportunity and from the growing aggregation of world-class researchers who have been attracted to OHSU in recent years because of the critical mass they see developing here,” said Dan Dorsa, Ph.D., OHSU vice president for research. “The breakthroughs reflected in these numbers have added to OHSU’s intellectual capital, which is the foundation for commercial licensing opportunities and biomedical startup companies and, ultimately, the development of new medical therapies, pharmaceuticals and devices.”

J. Timothy Stout, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., OHSU vice president for commercialization strategies, added: “The achievements in the last fiscal year make it clear that OHSU is well poised to take its commercialization activities to the next level by increasing targeted research collaborations with industry and potential investors.”

The five FY 2007 OHSU startups are:

Molecular MD is a molecular diagnostics company specializing in clinical development and commercialization of state-of-the-art assays used to diagnose specific cancers and to monitor the ongoing effectiveness of therapy. In partnership with BioCatalyst International, the company was founded by OHSU scientists, notably Brian Druker, M.D., director of the OHSU Cancer Institute, and Michael Heinrich, M.D., acting head of the division of hematology and oncology in the OHSU School of Medicine. Druker is internationally recognized for his role in the clinical development of Gleevec (Imatinib), the first molecular-targeted medication to prove effective against chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). Heinrich was the first to identify mutations in platelet-derived growth factor receptors (PDGFR) as the cause of gastrointestinal stromal tumors in specific patient populations. MolecularMD’s focus is on developing partnerships with pharmaceutical companies and physicians by providing them with clinically relevant molecular tests that help optimize therapy and improve patient outcomes. For more information about Molecular MD, go to http://www.molecularmd.com

ID Biopharma - which was spun off by Virogenomics Inc., an earlier OHSU startup - was created to accelerate the development of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics to fight infectious diseases. When it was formed it also brought in additional OHSU-developed technologies. The company is unique among biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies in focusing on infectious diseases. ID Biopharma will function as the commercialization accelerator for the Oregon Translational Research and Drug Development Institute (OTRADI), which it worked with the state’s four research universities to establish. The National Institutes of Health, which allocates more than $4 billion annually toward infectious disease research, funds strong infectious disease research programs at Oregon’s research universities. The company will work closely with the universities to turn discoveries into products that improve people’s health. For more information about ID Biopharma, go to http://www.idbiopharma.com

Yecuris, Inc. plans to launch products that will use novel technologies to address the problem of liver toxicity, one of the primary obstacles to safe and efficient drug development. When new drug compounds are being developed they need to be tested on human liver cells to predict how the human liver will metabolize it. One in six compounds fail in the development stage because of liver toxicity. The market demand for such cells has reached an estimated $2 billion a year worldwide, but the supply is spotty. The company- founded by Markus Grompe, M.D., professor of molecular and medical genetics, and pediatrics, OHSU School of Medicine, and director of the Oregon Stem Cell Center - anticipates providing an economical and reliable source of these cells based on a technology that, in essence, turns a mouse into a factory for human liver cells. See OHSU press release: http://www.ohsu.edu/ohsuedu/newspub/releases/livercells080907.cfm

Cylerus - a company founded by Stephen Hanson, Ph.D., head of the OHSU Department of Biomedical Engineering - is developing technological improvements that will enable uniform, localized drug delivery for preserving the functions of artificial blood vessels (vascular grafts). These advances will address the unmet medical need to prevent vascular graft failure that currently results from localized blood clotting and abnormal tissue ingrowth within such grafts. The company is perfecting a proprietary method of local drug delivery at the blood-graft interface that minimizes the side effects associated with other drug delivery systems used for these applications. Hanson holds 18 patents and has founded four companies. His most recent venture, Revitus, was focused on developing two novel extended-release drug compounds for preventing heart attacks, thrombotic strokes and death in patients who are at risk of adverse cardiovascular events. Revitus was acquired earlier this year by BioVascular, Inc., a privately held San Diego biotechnology company.

Portland Bioscience, Inc. (PdxBio™) is a privately owned molecular diagnostics and health information technology company. It provides proprietary software and hardware solutions to facilitate the emergence of personalized medicine, which involves the prescription of specific drugs or other therapeutic agents based on an individual’s unique genomic composition or genotype. The company’s proprietary genomic analysis, assay design and engineering tools are aimed at developing assays capable of positively determining such individual genotypes. PdxBio™ has an exclusive license with OHSU to clinical materials from the laboratory of Cheryl Maslen, Ph.D., OHSU professor of medicine and molecular and medical genetics. A major focus of Maslen’s lab is the study of metastasis of cancer cells. A mutation in the CRELD1 gene, which codes for a cell surface adhesion protein, has been identified by Maslen as a potential indicator of metastatic activity. PdxBio™ will develop commercial assays to test for the presence or absence of this mutation in clinical samples. Maslen also is working with the company to develop a diagnostic SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) assay for detection of age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss in developed countries. For more information about Portland Bioscience, go to http://www.pdxbioscience.com/index.htm

The FY 2007 data was compiled by the OHSU Office of Technology & Research Collaborations (TRC) headed by Arundeep Pradhan. TRC supports the university’s research community by collaborating with industry to facilitate research, licensing promising discoveries to industry, and participating in the creation of new companies based on OHSU research. TRC’s annual celebration of innovation and entrepreneurship begins Oct. 30. The event series includes the OHSU Innovation Showcase, which will highlight cutting edge research and successful startups as part of seven days of informative innovation and entrepreneurship events. For more information about TRC and the innovation and entrepreneurship events, go to http://www.ohsu.edu/tech-transfer/


About OHSU

Oregon Health & Science University is the state’s only health and research university, and its only academic health center. It is Portland’s largest employer and the fourth largest in Oregon (excluding government), with more than 12,000 employees. It serves more than 184,000 patients, and is a conduit for learning for more than 3,900 students and trainees. OHSU also is the source of more than 200 community outreach programs that bring health and education services to each county in the state. As a leader in research, OHSU earned $307 million in research funding in fiscal year 2007. OHSU serves as a catalyst for the region’s bioscience industry and is an incubator of discovery, averaging one new breakthrough or innovation every 2.7 days, with more than 4,100 research projects currently under way. For more information about OHSU, go to http://www.ohsu.edu/index.shtml