University News

Grant funds biomedical research

Senior Staff Writer
Friday, April 13, 2012

The University received a grant from Johnson and Johnson last month to provide seed funds for biomedical research that could have commercial or practical applications. The unrestricted grant was not awarded for one particular project but rather for a variety of research projects that may already be in progress or in transition. The amount awarded has not been publicly released.

“This grant provides funds for translational research allowing scientists to get to the next step,” said Katherine Gordon, director of Brown’s Technology Ventures Office. She added that the grant will provide researchers the funds to develop and answer new questions that may arise in their work and will act as a bridge to take research projects to the next level. She said the University will announce which projects will be funded through the grant over the course of the next several months.

Gordon said she had been in talks with Johnson and Johnson, specifically its Corporate Office of Science and Technology, about “areas of synergy and areas of potential collaboration,” and this grant was awarded as a result of those talks.

Brown will provide matching funds to complement the seed funding once faculty proposals have been looked over and decisions have been made about which projects to support.

“Johnson and Johnson is looking to seed projects that will result in game-changing technologies and paradigm shifts,” said Jeffrey Morgan, associate professor of medical science and engineering and co-director of the Center for Biomedical Engineering.

Morgan stressed that this mechanism of funding differs from traditional corporate sponsorship of research because it is “less directed” and more focused on funding innovation.

Gordon said Brown will retain all intellectual property produced through this research and said she believes Johnson and Johnson is partnering with Brown to establish relationships with researchers, as well as take advantage of the “breadth of the science and the people” at Brown.

This seed grant is only a piece of a larger effort by the University to secure more funding from corporate sources, Gordon said.

“It’s important to have alternative sources of funding, especially since federal support for lab research is dwindling,” she said.

The Herald reported in December that the University has been increasingly looking to corporations to sponsor research in wake of potential cuts in federal funds. Notable examples of this effort include the University’s partnerships with General Motors, as well as IBM and AT&T.

Morgan said that while Johnson and Johnson will only support research “relevant to their mission,” the wide array of companies under the Johnson and Johnson umbrella gives researchers flexibility.

“It’s a win-win for faculty at Brown and for Johnson and Johnson,” he said.