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Member Perspective: Heather Steinman

Posted Thursday, May 4th, 2017

Member Submitted, Action Teams, Health Care

Guest Commentator: Heather A. Steinman, Ph.D., MBA, Vice President for Business Development and Executive Director of Technology Transfer at The Wistar Institute @TheWistar

What role will the Philadelphia Research Consortium play in Greater Philadelphia’s life sciences ecosystem?

We recognize that Philadelphia is an exceptional place to do life sciences research, discovery and clinical translation. We have the highest caliber of science, biotech and pharmaceutical expertise and entrepreneurial talent in our region supported by the dedication of individuals across the many sectors of academia, industry, government, economic development, foundations, business incubators and accelerators, and investment communities. As a connected life sciences community, we understand the need to fully leverage our individual and collective strengths to create a unified message that Philadelphia is, not could be, a robust life sciences engine churning out the next generation of start-ups advancing transformative health care solutions.

Our region represents more than 1,200 life sciences establishments, more than $1 billion in federal funding from the National Institutes of Health, $6 billion in other investments* and has created more than 118 university start-ups between 2013-2015.** This means we are not just a hotbed of innovation, but collectively we can drive more collaborations and gain further investment and funding for the next great wave of innovations.

As the nation’s first biomedical research institute and a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Cancer Center, The Wistar Institute has a single mission: performing groundbreaking discovery research in cancer, immunology, infectious disease and vaccines. We are dedicated to the cross-fertilization of academic and industry science, promoting the open sharing of knowledge of the drug discovery and development process and fostering productive collaborations to break down barriers that may typically get in the way of moving academic discoveries forward into the clinic.

Wistar launched the Philadelphia Drug Discovery Forum (PDDF) in 2015 to provide a platform for networking, initiating and sustaining collaborations within the life-sciences community. Monthly PDDF meetings bring scientists from both academia and industry together to share ideas and resources. With a better understanding of the challenges inherent in the drug development process, we believe we can increase the quality of our research assets, shorten the timelines required to get from idea to proof of concept, and take active steps to generate more attractive opportunities for start-ups and downstream commercialization partners.

This is where the Philadelphia Research Consortium begins. Launched this year, the Consortium is the region’s first preclinical research network designed to facilitate easy access for start-up and biotech partners to our collective research enterprise. A growing community of research institutes have signed a memorandum that supports the use of a universal preclinical research agreement between start-ups that are interested in undertaking research collaborations with laboratories of member institutions. Participating members today include: Baruch S. Blumberg Institute, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Children’s National Health System, Drexel University, Lankenau Institute for Medical Research (part of Main Line Health), Lehigh University, Monell Chemical Senses Center, Penn State, Penn State College of Medicine, Temple University, The Wistar Institute, Thomas Jefferson University, and University of the Sciences. By agreeing to utilize a widely accepted, templated contract, start-ups can minimize time and costs on contractual negotiations with technology transfer offices and focus their resources on advancing the science.

Academic research institutions in the Philadelphia region are taking an active role in ensuring our startups have broad access to innovative life sciences discoveries. We continue to look at new avenues for working together to enhance our culture of collaboration that will lead to continued breakthroughs and advances in drug discovery.

For more information about the Philadelphia Research Consortium, visit: wistar.org/philaRC.
For more information about the Philadelphia Drug Discovery Forum, visit: wistar.org/pddf.

* Greater Philadelphia Region Life Sciences Report, Trends and Highlights, January 2011 to June 2016.
** Association of University Technology Managers U.S. Licensing Activity Surveys FY2013-FY2015.



The Wistar Institute is a member of the Chamber’s Health Care Action Team (HCAT), a unique, cross-functional group that leverages the region’s health care assets and is transforming our 11-county community into the global leader in health care innovation.

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