Colorado State University today unveiled MicroRx, a first-of-its-kind enterprise to speed the transition of life-saving research on infectious diseases from the academic world into the global marketplace. MicroRx is just the first of the university’s "Superclusters" – alliances of academic researchers, economists and business experts designed to encourage collaboration and bridge the vastly different worlds of business and academia. Colorado State today also announced its Superclusters acceleration research-to-market model, which the university began developing in 2004.
"University research scientists often try to double as entrepreneurs to transfer their discoveries into useful products and medical remedies," said Larry Edward Penley, Colorado State University president and co-creator of the Superclusters model. "Our Superclusters model encourages their direct collaboration with industry experts, enabling them to focus on what they do best – innovation and research into the great global challenges – and taking advantage of the corporate drive to market for that research for the benefit of the public."
Colorado State Superclusters will focus on research areas where the university has demonstrated international prominence, and where a potential for growth is evident. MicroRx, the business arm of the first Supercluster to launch, is a private, non-profit entity focused on infectious disease and biomedical research and development. The university has global renown for its infectious disease discoveries, including diagnostic tests and vaccines for West Nile virus, leprosy, bubonic plague and tuberculosis. The Colorado State Foothills Research Campus is home to the world’s most advanced research techniques, facilities, equipment and some of the world’s leading researchers in the field of infectious disease.
Colorado State, a premier research institution, has experienced double-digit growth in research dollars in recent years with total annual research expenditures topping $267 million.
"MicroRx will translate groundbreaking scientific research from Colorado State, so that public-health solutions are developed faster for the people who need them," said Tony Frank, senior vice president and provost, who also is a co-creator of the Superclusters Model. "Our primary goal is to expeditiously commercialize intellectual property for society’s benefit."
Many research universities have "technology transfer" programs, which guide scientists through the process of patenting and other complexities encountered in delivering discoveries to the global market. Colorado State’s Superclusters model is unique in its multidisciplinary structure, enabling groundbreaking research to move to market more quickly by mimicking business practices.
"Our Superclusters will look and act like a business and will be managed by people who have been successful leaders in the for-profit sector," Penley added.
Business leaders in the biomedical field have welcomed the Superclusters model, which will make accessing new research and technology more streamlined.
"MicroRx, with Dr. Barry Beaty at its scientific helm, will speed the transfer of innovative discoveries to organizations like InViragen," said Dan Stinchcomb, InViragen’s chief executive officer. "These entities will provide the expertise and resources required to develop needed products to improve global public health."
Each Supercluster, organized under a specific research area, will appoint a chief scientific officer who oversees research activities. A chief operating officer will focus on forging business alliances and developing new opportunities for the results of that research. The Supercluster’s technology transfer specialist will seek opportunities for patents, licenses and startups. The team also will seek private equity investors for new business opportunities.
"I’m honored to spearhead this project of collaboration, which will deliver ‘real-world’ solutions based on pioneering scientific discovery," said Beaty, who will serve as the MicroRx chief scientific officer. Beaty is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and is a Colorado State University Distinguished Professor in Arthropod-borne infectious diseases such as West Nile virus. "We’ll develop medical interventions to save and improve lives faster and with more precision to fill gaps in current medicine."
Based on a competitive proposal process, Colorado State will select additional Superclusters in research areas including cancer, environmental sciences, alternative energy and agriculture. Colorado State will select additional Superclusters based on a competitive proposal process, in research areas including cancer, environmental sciences, alternative energy and agriculture.
Future choices, similar to the current MicroRx Supercluster, will be guided by the University’s strengths, global challenges and interest in increasing economic prosperity and quality of life.
MicroRx and all future Superclusters will be governed by a new not-for-profit entity called Colorado State University Ventures. This business enterprise is a subsidiary corporation of the existing Colorado State University Research Foundation, or CSURF, a private, non-profit foundation that aids the university in overall research and educational efforts.
Colorado State’s Board of Governors approved initial funding for MicroRx, and University officials anticipate growth into an annual operating budget in excess of $1 million. Revenues generated by MicroRx will come from shares of patents, licensing agreements, startup companies or other partnership arrangements that evolve from Colorado State research. The not-for-profit structure will ensure that proceeds are funneled into future research at the university.
"The Superclusters enterprise will allow Colorado State University to more than double the number of inventions and startups resulting from all scientific findings in the next five years under this new economic development model," said Mark Wdowik, chief executive officer of CSU Ventures.
The Superclusters model is part of Colorado State’s overall strategy to help transform Colorado with renewed emphasis on the economic benefits provided by higher education.
Editor’s note: Video clips, downloadable, broadcast-quality audio clips and print-quality images are available at http://superclusters.colostate.edu.
At 10 a.m. MST Feb. 8, reporters may call in to hear a brief presentation with a question-and-answer session to follow. Call 1-800-371-8200 or 1-805-620-4010 (outside the United States) Participant Access Code: 55468. Press "6" to ask questions once Q&A Mode is announced; questions will be taken in order.