Federal funding of research, even when the science seems to have no obvious or immediate practical application, catalyzes life-saving discoveries in science, medicine and technology. At an October 25 congressional briefing sponsored by the Science Coalition, “American-Made Innovation: Sparking Economic Growth,” a panel of scientists turned biotechnology entrepreneurs gathered in Washington D.C. to discuss the role of federal funding in the formation of their companies.
They described how grants from federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Department of Defense, and Department of Energy became seed money for startups that now successfully develop and market products in medical diagnostics, medical imaging, precision medicine, chemotherapy and preventative health.
Jeb Connor, chairman, CEO & co-founder, Genome Profiling, described how investigations in thermal stress and genetic changes in Antarctic ice worms led to the development of an advanced computational statistical model program. This software is now used to identify the genetic signatures of various cancers and other diseases, and to identify biomarkers that predict responsiveness to therapy.
The origin of so many new medical technologies begin as “happy accidents,” said Representative Bill Foster (D-IL-11). When federal funding of research is cut, progress in research and development is stifled which could have long-term negative consequences, he continued.
Patents, licenses, and new business ventures emerge based on the work of federally-funded academic laboratories, said panel moderator Orin Herskowitz, senior vice president of intellectual property and technology transfer at Columbia University and executive director of Columbia Technology Ventures. Over 1,000 start-ups in the U.S. each year emerge to commercialize technologies that originated in federally-supported laboratories, he continued.
Other panelists included Andrew Hansen, president, HylaPharm; Michael Abramoff, president and founder, IDxLLC; Jack O’Toole, founder, FreshAirSensor; Carmela Abraham, founder, co-chair Science Advisory Board, KlogeneTherapeutics; Robert Hamers, chief science officer & co-founder, Silatronix; Robin Berthier, president, Network Perception; and Jessica Winter, founder, Core Quantum Technologies.