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MU signs $5 million agreement with Coulter Translational Research Partnership Program

COLUMBIA, Mo. University of Missouri officials announced today a $5 million grant agreement with the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation, through the Foundation's Translational Partnership Award Program. The goal of the partnership is to develop technologies that will save, extend and improve patient lives and suffering from any disease or condition in any country around the world. The funds will be used to support collaborative projects between biomedical engineers and clinicians to take research discoveries to clinical practice.

"This is a major recognition of the University of Missouri and its researchers as only about 15 universities have been given this award," said Jinglu Tan, James C. Dowell Professor and chair of biological engineering in the College of Engineering and the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. "This award will position us to become a national leader in translational biomedical research by building on existing successes in biomedical engineering research, cooperation between engineering and medicine researchers, and technology transfer projects. This award will allow our scientists to take their discoveries and develop them for use in the hospital or other clinical settings in an effort to improve the quality of life for many people."

The agreement between MU and the Coulter Foundation stipulates that the Foundation will provide $666,667 per year for five years, while MU will match that money with $333,333 each year, for a total amount of $5 million over the next five years. An oversight committee, consisting of stake holders in translational research, will be formed to decide how to award the money to MU bioengineering faculty who are seeking to commercialize their research discoveries in partnership with clinicians.

Tan, who also is the director of the Division of Food Systems and BioEngineering; Bill Caldwell, director of Ellis Fischel Cancer Center and professor of pathology and anatomical sciences in the MU School of Medicine; and Chris Fender, director of the MU Office of Technology Management and Industrial Relations, led the MU effort for this nationwide competition. The board will consist of Tan, Caldwell, Fender, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists.

"This program creates a framework and culture that requires physicians, scientists, and intellectual property and commercialization specialists to work together in multidisciplinary teams to take discoveries in biomedicine and transform them into viable, commercial products that address unmet clinical needs," said Caldwell, who also is the CRC Missouri Chair in Cancer Research at MU. "We truly have an enormous amount of biomedical research and intellectual property across this campus, and the Coulter award will take us much closer to developing a system for moving our research quickly into clinical practice."

Interdisciplinary efforts to take new technologies to the marketplace are numerous at MU, said Rob Duncan, vice chancellor for research. One example is the BioDesign Program, which has led to the collaboration of post-graduate fellows in medicine, engineering and business to develop and market products that are helpful for doctors. So far, the program has resulted in eight patents for new devices.

Earlier, John Viator, an associate professor of biological engineering, and two other biological engineering faculty researchers received Coulter Translational Research Awards in Biomedical Engineering. As part of his grant, Viator was provided with services that helped him take the next steps to commercializing his research. As a result, Viator has been notified that he will be granted a patent soon based on his technology that can "hear" cancer cells in the bloodstream with a laser. Currently, MU officials are working with Viator to commercialize the technology.

"These awards are very important in helping scientists understand the commercialization process," Viator said. "In my case, the award helped us develop the apparatus, define it and make it more accurate. The Coulter Foundation also provided services such as an intellectual property analysis. While one law firm studied the patent landscape regarding the technology, another firm helped us develop a business plan. We also had an opportunity to talk with other scientists who had received the award and go to seminars to learn about business and commercialization issues."

"This is affirmation and validation of our efforts toward economic development," Duncan said. "Being given this award identifies us as one of the few institutions in the country that has the resources to move new discoveries into products that will benefit health professionals and patients. The faculty and staff on our campus have worked hard and long to achieve this recognition. This is a testament to the interdisciplinary research that occurs at Mizzou."

In FY 2010, MU received more than $9.5 million in licensing revenue, which includes royalties and licensing fees. MU also licensed 38 new technologies for commercialization, and filed 57 patent applications in FY 2010. MU officials are expecting the number of new licenses to increase over the next fiscal year.


Contact: Mary Jo Banken
University of Missouri-Columbia

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