University News

U. partners with hospitals to help market research

A new agreement with Lifespan health care system will expand its patent opportunities

By
Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The University’s Technology Ventures Office announced a partnership with the Lifespan health care system March 25 that would help Lifespan commercialize new research discoveries. The TVO also expanded its existing partnership with Care New England to cover discoveries made in two more of the company’s hospitals.

The TVO will oversee the process of obtaining patents for new biomedical discoveries made at these hospitals and present the products to private sector companies that might license them, said Provost Mark Schlissel P’15.

“It’s very much part of an extension of an existing collaboration,” Schlissel said, referencing the University’s close relationship with Lifespan. Lifespan is the main teaching hospital for students at the Alpert Medical School, and many members of the University’s clinical faculty work in Lifespan hospitals.

The TVO will commercialize three to four of Lifespan’s patents each year for the next several years, said Peter Snyder, vice president of research for Lifespan and professor of neurology at the Med School. Lifespan’s research produces about six or seven patents every year, he added.

Lifespan has chosen three “key areas” of research — orthopedics, gastroenterology and liver research — to market first, Snyder said.

“Realistically, we’re starting small,” he said, adding that he “(looks) forward to hopefully expanding this relationship over time.”

Heidi Meisenkothen, associate director of licensing and business development, recently joined the TVO to oversee the partnership with Lifespan, said Katherine Gordon, managing director of the TVO. The TVO and Lifespan evenly split the cost of her salary, Snyder said.

Though the TVO has already worked with Care New England’s Women and Infants Hospital for a couple years, it will now also manage patents from Butler Hospital and Kent Hospital — the other two hospitals owned by Care New England — according to a University press release.

Since products from both of the state’s major health care providers — Lifespan and Care New England — are managed by the same office, “we can take all of our intellectual property and attempt to look for licenses in an efficient way,” Snyder said. The abundance of discoveries yielding patents will make the University a more attractive destination for prospective buyers, he added.

“(Lifespan is) pretty good at detecting good ideas that are unique, unusual and should be protected with a patent,” Snyder said. But marketing often proves to be a challenge, especially because the researchers are “not necessarily interested in turning into business people,” he said. Before the partnership, Lifespan handled all product marketing internally, and the partnership will help Lifespan with this key step of turning ideas into business, he said.

This partnership “represents one of what I hope will become several efforts to better coordinate research” between Brown faculty members on campus and those at clinical sites, Schlissel said.

“Ultimately, the success of the deal and the collaboration will be determined by the success of the research and success of the marketplace,” Gordon said.

At least two years must elapse before the productivity of the collaboration can be assessed, Snyder said.

As the TVO expands its work with the two health care systems, it does not plan to form additional partnerships at the moment, Gordon said.

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