The Georgia Research Alliance doesn't conduct research itself; instead, as its name implies, it facilitates research collaboration among six universities in the State of Georgia: Clark Atlanta University, Emory University, the Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia State University, Georgia Health Sciences University and the University of Georgia. Since 1990, GRA has leveraged $525 million of state funding into $2.6 billion in additional public and private financing; moreover, it has played a role in the creation of more than 150 companies.
As President and CEO C. Michael Cassidy explains it, GRA at its heart is an economic development organization. It achieves its goal of growing the state's economy by first recruiting world-class scientists and building R&D capacity and, later, shaping and seeding companies around the most promising discoveries. GRA is planning to scale up the latter in the near future, but not at the expense of the former.
"We have an overflowing pipeline of really interesting research activity that's coming out of the universities," Cassidy said. "We're going to put some more tools in place to assist in translation and commercialization of those discoveries."
GRA is broadly focused; Cassidy identified Internet security and energy management products as ones in the pipeline that have him excited. But biomedical research plays a critical role in the state's economic development plans, and more than half of GRA's portfolio involves biomedical research.
Looking back, Cassidy says that the Emory Vaccine Center has been a shining example of how GRA proves the power of business, government and academia working together. In the mid-1990s, GRA and Emory University lured to the state noted vaccine researcher Rafi Ahmed, PhD, as part of GRA's Eminent Scholars recruitment program. Ahmed launched the Emory Vaccine Center in 1996, which has since secured more than $260 million in research funding. One of the discoveries at the Emory Vaccine Center led to the creation of GeoVax, which employs 14 people in suburban Atlanta and reported nearly $5 million in revenues in 2011.
Policy perspective from Washington is a key factor for GRA's membership with Research!America.
"We derive tremendous value through our membership in Research!America. Insight into what's going on at the federal level is giving us a better idea of how to shape our own strategies and policies, and Research!America's opinion polls have been particularly informative," Cassidy said. "GRA was very active as one of the sites within the global health initiative and really enjoyed working with the Research!America team. We are much more tuned in to Washington in ways that we probably wouldn't have been on our own."
To learn more, visit www.gra.org.