The National Institutes of Health has awarded $20 million to fund five additional hubs designed to speed up the translation of biomedical discoveries into commercially viable diagnostics, devices, therapeutics, and tools to improve patient care and enhance health. The newly selected Research Evaluation and Commercialization Hubs (REACH) expand a national network of proof-of-concept centers that links 34 academic institutions developing best practices to translate biomedical innovations into public benefit.
Each hub has also secured non-federal matching funds and developed partnerships with regional life science and economic development organizations to enhance the scope and impact of NIH’s investment.
“These awards increase engagement with private sector technology development experts and investors,” said Dr. Jodi Black, who created the original program in 2013 and is the deputy director of the NIH Office of Extramural Research (OER). “They also build entrepreneurial research and development capacity to improve and accelerate the transfer of biomedical technologies from the lab to the market, which is critical for turning NIH discoveries into health.”
The REACH program merges the strengths of high-impact research institutions with product development expertise and resources from federal and private-sector partners. The goal is to enable academic innovators to validate the potential health impacts of their discoveries and advance the promising technologies from academia to small businesses. Each hub scouts for biomedical projects, which are reviewed by product development experts. If projects look promising, the hubs provide funding, milestone-driven project management support and entrepreneurial education to help innovators transform their laboratory discoveries into viable solutions for some of the nation’s highest healthcare priorities.
REACH successes include a new drug known as GTB-3550 that is designed to seek out and kill cancer cells. This new type of investigational antibody turns a person’s own immune system against tumors. The initial laboratory developments at the University of Minnesota (UMN) Masonic Cancer Center in Minneapolis were funded in part by NIH. It was funding and product development expertise from UMN, one of the three initial REACH hubs, however, that propelled the discovery into a Phase I/II clinical trial in humans.
“Without a program like REACH, this project would never have gotten to a Phase I study,” said Daniel Vallera Ph.D., professor at UMN. “It was amazing to find an NIH possibility that was directed primarily at getting inventions through FDA approval and to patients.”
“(The UMN) REACH hub provided funding, experience in learning how commercialization works, some idea about the FDA’s (regulatory) expectations and what we should be looking for in commercial partners,” Vallera said.
UMN has since teamed up with GT Biopharma, a California-based immuno-oncology company, to test the drug in cancer patients and continue development toward patient access.
The new REACH awardees will join a national network of proof-of-concept centers that includes three REACH hubs funded in 2015 and three NIH Centers for Accelerated Innovations (NCAI) that were launched in 2013.
In less than five years, the NCAI and REACH have supported 269 research and development projects, provided entrepreneurial training for more than 2,200 scientists and facilitated formation of 59 spin-out small businesses to solve some of our most pressing healthcare needs.
“In the end, the public benefits from the stream of innovative health products from NIH discoveries enabled by this program,” said Dr. Matthew McMahon, director of the NIH Office of Biomedical Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
The new REACH awardees are:
- Kentucky Network for Innovation & Commercialization (KYNETIC)
(Grant # 1 U01 HL152392-01)
- University of Kentucky, Lexington (lead)
- University of Louisville, Kentucky
- Rutgers Optimizes Innovation (ROI) Program
(Grant # 1 U01 HL150852-01)
- Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, Newark, New Jersey (lead)
- Rutgers University, Piscataway, New Jersey
- Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, New Brunswick
- Midwest Biomedical Accelerator Consortium (MBArC)
(Grant # 1 U01 HL152410-01)
- University of Missouri, Columbia (lead)
- University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City
- Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus REACH Hub
(Grant # 1 U01 HL152405-01)
- Washington Entrepreneurial Research Evaluation and Commercialization Hub
(Grant # 1 U01 HL152401-01)
- University of Washington, Seattle (lead)
- Seattle Children’s Center