by Charles Litton, UNeMed
OMAHA, Neb. (Aug. 18, 2016)—UNeMed Corporation, the technology transfer and commercialization office for the University of Nebraska Medical Center, concluded another successful fiscal year with its annual shareholder meeting at TD Ameritrade Park’s Skybox Lounge.
The meeting brought together key UNMC leadership and researchers who mixed and mingled while learning about UNeMed’s efforts over the previous year and future initiatives.
During a brief set of remarks, Chancellor Jeffrey Gold, M.D., touched on UNMC’s record-breaking strides in research funding. UNMC’s annual research goal had long-been $100 million—A number eclipsed last year, by more than $15 million.
“That was really a dramatic achievement,” he said, “but what is even more dramatic is…the percentage growth that we had was sixth-highest among academic medical centers in the United States.”
UNMC’s high-water mark for research funding could translate into a greater array of discoveries and innovations, UNeMed President and CEO Michael Dixon, Ph.D., said.
A similar spike in research funding occurred in 2012. That same year, UNMC researchers reported a record 106 new inventions. The surge has largely been attributed to the 2009 federal stimulus package, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Over the course of five years, the stimulus pumped more than $15 billion nationally into scientific facilities, research and instrumentation.
The more recent surge in research funding last year creates plenty of room for optimism, Dr. Dixon said.
“The reason that’s exciting is because more inventions equal more opportunities for products, more opportunities for licenses, more partnerships,” Dr. Dixon said.
UNeMed, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, reported a record 153 opportunities created in 2016, a 59 percent increase over the previous year. Those opportunities led to 20 licensing agreements that could further develop UNMC technologies.
“We’re asking companies to spend hundreds of millions, if not a billion dollars, on a single technology,” Dr. Dixon said, “so it takes time to develop those into products.”
There are 36 products based on UNMC innovations currently on the market today. Another 46 are in various stages of development.
Developing UNMC innovations was among four stated initiatives in the coming year, a task helped by recent growth in Nebraska’s biotechnology and startup sectors. Now, more than ever, Nebraska has more funding opportunities, more venture capital groups and more small business programs, Dr. Dixon said.
Recently, UNeMed has helped secure more than $2 million in additional funding for UNMC innovations through the University’s proof-of-concept grant program. Funded by the Nebraska Research Initiative, those grants have helped build three startup companies; attracted additional grant funding through other federal programs; and led to several industrial partnerships, Dr. Dixon said.
Nebraska’s ascendance in those areas led UNMC alumnus and UNeMed board member Tyler Martin, M.D., to return to his home state after a successful biomedical career in California.
“There’s a tremendous opportunity for us to do something that’s good for us, good for the state of Nebraska, good for life sciences globally,” Dr. Martin said during brief remarks to the gathering.
UNeMed’s remaining initiatives include continued focus on educational measures, such as the popular Tech Transfer Boot Camp and the entrepreneurship certificate program; a more robust internal communications program geared toward helping departmental leaders see the technology transfer process in real time; and continued focus in supporting and nurturing the startup and entrepreneurial communities through involvement with programs like StraightShot.
“I can’t tell you how I’m reminded every single day of how great an organization this is,” Dr. Gold said, “and how much future potential that we have. We are already phenomenal, but the best yet still lies ahead.”