Innovation (and the Research Roadmap) in action: The “Unlocking Value” initiative

Sponsored Research Accelerator, Primate Center investments and commercialization of technologies for elder care now underway

On Feb. 13, Dean Richardson made a presentation sharing the latest developments with the “Unlocking Value” initiative at the Collaborative Research Leadership Group meeting.

The goal of OHSU’s Unlocking Value initiative is to generate new revenue by investing and allocating resources in research areas with commercial potential. In turn, this new revenue will, over time, help support School of Medicine scientific, education and other faculty initiatives through re-investment.

The Unlocking Value initiative is one part of the overall strategy to advance the research and education missions in ways that help them become less dependent on clinical revenue and federal/state funding—both of which are expected to flatten or decline in coming years due to the effects of health care reform and constrained public budgets.

“Academic health centers across the country are facing the same funding challenges and those that successfully adapt to this shifting external landscape are likely to emerge in a newly competitive and strengthened position,” said Dean Richardson.

Dean Richardson first discussed this initiative last June (click here for the related article and slide deck). Since then, the team working on the Unlocking Value initiative, led by Dean Richardson and Vice President for Research Dan Dorsa, evaluated ten opportunities against the following three criteria for near-term investment:

  1. Opportunity for commercialization
  2. OHSU competitive advantage
  3. Readiness to implement

A fourth element considered in the final evaluation was the pace at which revenue would be returned to support School of Medicine faculty and programs.

“It’s important to remember this process is not a commentary on scientific merit, but rather, it’s a business decision that may help us develop new funding streams to support our research more broadly,” said Mary Stenzel-Poore, PhD, Senior Associate Dean for Research.

Three areas emerged from the Unlocking Value analysis that met the criteria above.

  1. Sponsored Research Agreement (SRA) Accelerator. This initiative takes advantage of the ongoing evolution of many pharmaceutical companies away from internal R&D towards forming both large and small partnerships with academic health centers for the purpose of developing basic science knowledge. Opportunities currently exist for OHSU to capitalize on this trend in several key scientific areas, including rare diseases and neurosciences. The SRA Accelerator will strategically deploy staff and expertise to utilize and develop new internal expertise to act as a matchmaker between our labs and potential industry partners. This initiative is now underway; the business model forecasts that the SRA Accelerator will provide new external support for faculty research activities as well as incremental revenue to the School of Medicine.

  2. The Primate Center/Industry Partnership Initiative. As one of only eight national primate centers nationwide, this opportunity intends to capitalize on the Oregon National Primate Research Center’s unique strengths in certain disease models. The analysis indicated that the external demand for these models is higher than current supply. This initiative is similar in approach to the SRA concept, but its focus (and investment) will be on the Primate Center and on enhancing the framework in which its value to industry is maximized. This initiative will include immediate and longer-term investments in the physical structure of the Primate Center.

  3. Commercialization of technologies for elder care. With the home health market estimated to reach eight billion in 2012 and to triple in size by 2020, this opportunity looks to capitalize on the Oregon Center for Aging and Technology (ORCATECH)’s unique “living labs” and the resulting research to license technologies, test products and provide unique data to developers. The end goal is to commercialize elder-care technologies developed by ORCATECH through multiple business models which could drive significant long-term revenue opportunity. This process is underway.

Over the longer term, mechanisms for a standardized evaluation process for business opportunities within the research mission, including maintaining a pipeline of ideas for future investments, will be developed. Additionally, the work of Task Force #1 from the School of Medicine Research Roadmap will be used to help identify potential research themes for this type of investment analysis on an ongoing basis. A goal of Task Force #1 is to develop data-driven processes to define distinctive and emergent research areas.