The Pennington Biomedical Research Center is home to new and exciting discoveries made right here in Baton Rouge every day. While not every scientific breakthrough will end up as a new diagnostic test or treatment available in the marketplace, many Pennington Biomedical innovations do have that potential.
An exciting new partnership between seasoned business tech transfer professional Patrick Reed, RTTP, and Associate Professor Kenneth Eilertsen, Ph.D., who has vast experience in basic research and creating startup biotech companies, is putting a new emphasis on and approach to translational research and commercialization at Pennington Biomedical.
“Commercialization is one more important way that Pennington Biomedical can achieve its mission of helping people to live healthier, longer by converting scientific discoveries into products and services that benefit patients and the general public,” said Reed, who joined Pennington Biomedical earlier this year as Director of Innovation and Commercialization and has nearly 22 years of experience in business development and commercialization within academic institutions.
Dr. Eilertsen will use his experience as a basic researcher with a track record of success in starting up and acquiring biotech companies to evaluate the patentability and marketability of potential disclosures that faculty, staff, and post-doctoral fellows bring to him.
“We have always sought to get our research out to the marketplace so that the public can benefit from our advances and inventions,” said Dr. Eilertsen. “Patrick brings a wealth of experience in this area and provides me with someone I can ‘tag team’ with so that each of us can focus on our strengths in this process.”
“Ken is making the science part of my job much easier. He has the technical and scientific expertise to understand what Pennington Biomedical discoveries have a real opportunity for commercialization,” said Reed. “We want to very aggressively and proactively target industries that can benefit from the work going on here, and having Ken on the team helps to market the science.”
When a researcher thinks he or she may have a viable invention, Eilertsen and Reed will conduct a “prior art search” by analyzing the scientific literature and patent databases to make sure the idea is not identical or similar to something that already exists, or, if it is, determine whether some piece of the idea is still patentable.
Patents are important to Pennington Biomedical because they provide exclusionary rights and keep others from replicating the invention.
“Patents put a fence around something. When you have concluded an NIH-funded project, you might still be in the very early stages of your invention. You need to entice a company to invest in additional R&D efforts, and the patent promises a future partner exclusivity, which increases interest among potential industry partners,” Reed said.
The patent process aligns with the marketing process. Reed engages with local, regional, and national and international companies on a regular basis, working to promote the science and innovation on campus so that a company will license it and make it available to the public.
“We partnered with the LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans to leverage Patrick Reed’s knowledge and expertise in commercialization and tech transfer,” said Dr. John Kirwan, Executive Director of Pennington Biomedical. “Patrick has served as the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Innovation & Partnerships in New Orleans and has an excellent track record of success there. We are pleased that he will be working with our Pennington Biomedical faculty as well.”
Eilertsen and Reed, together with Tiffany Stewart, Ph.D., Director of Pennington Biomedical’s Behavior Technology Laboratory, are participating in the BIO International Convention in Boston, which will be attended by more than 14,000 biotechnology and pharmaceutical leaders for a week of intensive networking to discover new opportunities and promising partnerships.
“This will be an amazing opportunity to showcase Pennington Biomedical’s strengths to potential new partners, including relevant industry players, patient advocacy groups, foundations, and other funders. In addition to marketing Pennington Biomedical technologies, we are eager to build new partnerships for collaborative or sponsored research. We want to take a holistic approach to marketing Pennington Biomedical, promoting our research capabilities, our innovation, and our subject matter expertise to other companies, universities and external partners,” Reed said.
Reed and Eilertsen said that there are more investigators nationwide competing for funding, so this is a critical effort for Pennington Biomedical.
As part of their overall efforts to bring Pennington Biomedical innovations to the marketplace, Reed and Eilertsen will provide assistance to faculty entrepreneurs who want to start a company.
“Because we are in a small ecosystem, start-up companies are often the best way to get technology to the market,” Reed said.
Rebecca F. Schutte, President and CEO of Pennington Biomedical Research Foundation, said, “Pennington Biomedical has long been appreciated within the scientific community as a global leader in obesity and metabolic research. Patrick and Ken are bringing a renewed enthusiasm for introducing Pennington Biomedical to national and international industry sectors to open new doors for Pennington Biomedical. I look forward to working with them to expand support of the Center.”