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OHSU turns innovations into commercial opportunities at record pace

PORTLAND, Ore. By most measures of an academic medical centers 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 universitys historyand 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 OHSUs 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. MolecularMDs 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 ]

  • 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 states 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 Oregons research universities. The company will work closely with the universities to turn discoveries into products that improve peoples health. [ For more information about ID Biopharma, go to ]

  • 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: ]

  • 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 individuals unique genomic composition or genotype. The companys 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 Maslens 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 ]


Contact: Harry Lenhart
Oregon Health & Science University

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