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Upstate NY's Trudeau Institute Taps HRI for Biomedical Tech-Transfer Services

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The Trudeau Institute, a non-profit biomedical research organization located in northeastern New York State, said last week that it has retained the services of Health Research Incorporated to help commercialize discoveries made at the institute.

The Trudeau Institute specializes in basic research on immune response to infectious disease, and HRI will help it establish its first formal tech-transfer program, a Trudeau Institute official told BTW this week.

Under the terms of the agreement, HRI, a non-profit corporation based in Menands, NY, near the state capital of Albany, will provide services to Trudeau such as market evaluation, intellectual property evaluation and protection, business development, marketing, licensing, and new venture formation.

The arrangement also provides Trudeau with access to HRI professional staff and resources for both tech transfer and sponsored research.

"It's a very new game for the institute," which owns just one patent and several pending patent applications, all of which were filed within the last six years or so, Steve Smiley, director of corporate relations at Trudeau, told BTW.

"Before that, there was really no interest here at all in tech transfer," he added. "And I think the change came about because a few principal investigators who were recruited here about 10 years ago had been in industry before that and had a little bit more of that background." Smiley himself joined Trudeau as a principal investigator in 2000 after working for biotech firms Millennium BioTherapeutics and Leukocyte.

According to Smiley, the partners will employ a "multi-tier system" in which Trudeau will first pay HRI an undisclosed fee for technology-marketing services; a second undisclosed fee for patenting services; and finally, a third undisclosed fee for technology-licensing assistance.

"There are very modest fees to enter those tiers, and then on top of that there is a revenue-sharing plan," Smiley added. He declined to share details of the revenue-sharing arrangements, citing a confidentiality agreement between the entities.

The Trudeau Institute, based in Saranac Lake, NY, was originally created as a tuberculosis treatment center in 1884 but was eventually reorganized as a non-profit research organization focused on the immune system and infectious disease.

In the past decade, the institute began to realize it needed a way to "ensure that the work we do here does get out in the public domain," Smiley said. "It tends to be very basic research, so it's sometimes a little bit difficult to make inroads there."

In addition, with more than 70 percent of its research funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health, Trudeau needed to diversify its income source.

"When the funding cycles come and go, it would be nice to have some other source of income," Smiley said. "We do look back at some things we discovered here a long time ago and wonder if we had patented them, whether that would have provided a revenue source to this day."

Prior to hiring HRI, what little tech transfer activity the institute did was either managed internally or contracted piecemeal to various external consultants.

Also, the institute has just 13 principal investigators and about 140 total employees, and thus was "not really large enough to support a fully functional tech-transfer department that has all the expertise we'd like to have," Smiley said.

"HRI provides that to us, basically," he added. "They're almost a for-hire tech transfer office. It all went forward because we met with them and found them to be easy to communicate with. They understand the kind of science we do and the size of our institute."

HRI is affiliated with the New York State Department of Health and the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, located in the western part of the state. It was established in 1953 primarily to serve the research programs of RPCI, which at the time was an institution of the NYS DOH.

HRI now also serves other DOH programs such as the Wadsworth Center, the AIDS Institute, the Office of Health Systems Management, the Center for Community Health, the Center for Environmental Health, the Office of Managed Care, and the Office of Medicaid Management, all in Albany; and the Helen Hayes Hospital in West Haverstraw.

Besides tech-transfer services, HRI also helps these programs evaluate, solicit, and administer external financial support.

Under their agreement, Trudeau and HRI will initially focus on marketing and potentially licensing five institute-developed technologies across two categories: vaccines and adjuvants; and therapeutic targets for inflammation, autoimmunity, and sepsis.

The specific technologies, about which more information can be found on the Trudeau Institute website, are a potential inflammation treatment based on CD38-modulated chemotaxis; vaccines and therapeutics for schistosomiasis; identification of a calcium channel and chemotaxis inhibitor; interleukin-15 antagonists for treating anemia; and nucleoprotein-specific antibodies for preventing and treating influenza.

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