Category: Technology Transfer

Technology Transfer

Rosacea on the Ropes? Hopkins-GSK Collaboration Could Find Cure…

Rosacea on the Ropes? Hopkins-GSK Collaboration Could Find Cure for Skin Conditions

 

Rosacea affects 16 million Americans, and contact dermatitis afflicts millions more. However, a unique industry-academic collaboration between a Johns Hopkins doctor and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) could soon change that, either through the development of a cure or a more effective treatment for those skin conditions.

Dr. Xinzhong Dong, a Johns Hopkins neuroscientist, has discovered a link between a particular mast cell receptor and allergic-type reactions to foreign substances. The link makes that particular receptor an attractive target for the development of drugs that block the mast cell’s allergic-type side effects, including itchiness, redness and rashes.

“Though we haven’t shown conclusively that targeting this receptor with the right drugs can cure these conditions, that is our hypothesis,” Dong says.

With little experience in drug development, Dong says it would have been difficult to start a company that focused on finding treatments. Another option was to hand it off to a pharmaceutical company. Instead, he applied to GSK’s Discovery Fast Track Challenge as an avenue to collaborate with the pharmaceutical company and, hopefully, identify drugs that act on the target and either cure the diseases or relieve the associated symptoms.

GSK’s Discovery Fast Track Challenge, like similar collaboration opportunities offered by Bayer, Pfizer CTI, Celgene, AbbVie, Bristol-Meyers Squibb and others, is designed to combine the individual strengths of pharmaceutical companies and academia to accelerate drug discovery.

“Although principal investigators at universities have novel ideas for treating patients, can identify targets and generate early proof of concept data toward that goal, they often don’t have the resources to build on their findings to directly develop new medicines,” says Nakisha Holder, senior technology transfer associate at Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures (JHTV). “Pharmaceutical companies have the drug development infrastructure and expertise that make these collaborations effective.”

In 2014, Dong pitched his concept to a panel of GSK judges and was named one of six North American Challenge winners. This fall, after about a year of collaboration, Dong and GSK agreed to continue their working relationship as the collaboration has shown early promise for the development of an effective treatment for rosacea and contact dermatitis. This is the first such agreement, termed a Discovery Partnerships with Academia agreement (DPAc), between a Hopkins doctor and GSK.

“Collaborations like this really give basic researchers like me the opportunity to achieve our dreams,” Dong says. “We want to see that our research can translate into a real drug, but it’s a difficult path. The best path is to go with a company who has a lot of experience in developing a drug.”

“It’s a win-win situation,” Dong continues. “We can move this process much faster by collaborating.”

Interest in industry-academic collaborations has grown at Hopkins due to word-of-mouth and through the efforts of JHTV’s Corporate Partnerships team, Holder says. This year, for example, a dozen Hopkins researchers applied to be part of the Discovery Fast Track Challenge, up from four in 2014.
 

For additional information related to ongoing partnerships, interested researchers can contact Corporate Partnerships Associate Kellin Krick at krick@jhu.edu.

 

Technology Transfer

Inventors, 2-2-2 Is Technology Transfer’s Commitment to You

Inventors, 2-2-2 Is Technology Transfer’s Commitment to You

Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures (JHTV) has received roughly 2,000 invention disclosures since fiscal year 2013. That number reflects the robust innovation culture at Johns Hopkins, but the sheer volume made it difficult for the Technology Transfer Team to be good partners to innovators–until a recent shift in focus, process and infrastructure.

“Before the change in March, I saw a lot of people with good ideas disclose and try to partner with Hopkins,” says Dr. Mike Weisfeldt, the Department of Medicine chair from 2001 to 2014. “I also saw enormous delays within the Technology Transfer Office before it acted, composed a patent and submitted it.”

Considering the United States Patent and Trademark Office has a first-to-file model, meaning the first person to submit a patent application has priority over subsequent ones, going months without hearing from Technology Transfer frustrated inventors.

This past March, that frustration began to subside as the Technology Transfer team aimed to increase its responsiveness and transparency by implementing the 2-2-2 program.

“2-2-2 is JHTV’s commitment to Johns Hopkins inventors,” says Neil Veloso, the executive director of the Technology Transfer office. “If you submit a disclosure, we will contact you within two business days, set up a meeting to confer about your disclosure within two weeks and provide a written decision on your disclosure within two months.”

Over the 2-2-2 initiative’s first eight months, JHTV received 331 disclosures, and the Technology Transfer team, almost without fail, held up their end of the commitment. They met each of the three goals 95 percent of the time.

The team has increased efficiency over the life of the program as they have worked out the kinks in their process. In October and November, they had a 100 percent success rate across each of the commitments. The work hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“The 2-2-2 program is a very ambitious commitment,” Weisfeldt says. “The change has been amazing. Faculty really need to understand they will get serious attention from real experts who can help them in a commercial sense.”

Veloso attributed this newfound efficiency to a greater focus on customer service, infrastructure changes to the invention database and workflow, and accountability among each part of the team.

“Internally, we have more rigor and process in our workflow,” Veloso says. “This has led to an excellent response from inventors.”

Though the team is currently operating at near maximum efficiency, Veloso is eyeing improvements to the 2-2-2 program.

“We certainly want to be consistent, have high levels of service and keep our success rates high, but we are also looking to implement the 2-2-2 program in other ways,” Veloso says. “In the future, we could very well add another digit to 2-2-2. We have taken a tremendous first step in improving our responsiveness and transparency, but that doesn’t mean we can’t improve our customer service even more.”

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