Leveraging Technology in Research to Save Lives

Research!America

Technology transfer, or the practice of transferring scientific findings from one organization, most notably universities, to another for further development, plays a pivotal role in the R&D ecosystem.  It is the bridge that ensures knowledge cultivated through academic research reaches patients and other beneficiaries, and it is a critically important means of financing further science and technology at academic institutions in the U.S. and around the world.

The Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM), a nonprofit organization with an international membership of more than 3,000 technology managers and business executives, has developed a project that not only highlights the importance of technology transfer, but provides compelling examples of research at work.  AUTM launched The Better World Project in 2005 in order to “promote public understanding of how academic research and technology transfer benefits you, your community, and millions of people around the world”. Originally launched as a printed report, it has now moved to an electronic version, complete with monthly feature stories submitted by AUTM members.

An example of one such story is the discovery of a bioresorbable polymer bead, a small biodegradable sphere that had a big impact on tumor treatments at the University of Minnesota. The researchers knew they have developed a useful polymer but they had no idea if it was patentable. With the help of the university’s Office of Technology Commercialization, they found a viable commercial partner and investors and were able to patent the technology. EmboMedics, the startup that acquired the technology, plans to call its product “resporbeads” and is seeking FDA approval. These microspheres could help stabilize patients with severe bleeding but the most dramatic way the technology could make a difference is by treating liver cancer. The tiny spheres act like tiny sponges with cancer-fighting drugs which can target the tumor site. EmboMedics’ product is different from current microsphere technology on the market as the spheres would break down at the conclusion of treatment, reducing the risk of side effects. This technology, which was able to move from university labs to private sector labs for manufacturing as a result of technology transfer, has the potential to save thousands of lives. The Better World Project site also includes the Better World Project Database, a system that allows you to generate customized reports for meetings with legislators or other policy makers.  

Whether your goal is to demonstrate the importance of tech transfer or underscore the power of research to change our world for the better, the Better World Project is an enormously valuable advocacy resource.  More information and other stories of successful technology transfers can be found at www.betterworldproject.org.

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You can change the image of things to come. But you can’t do it sitting on your hands … The science community should reach out to Congress and build bridges.
The Honorable John E. Porter