$400,000 grant creates new fund for translational research at Rockefeller

A $400,000 grant from the Achelis and Bodman Foundations will be used to create a new fund at The Rockefeller University devoted to advancing translational research that is at the cusp of commercial viability. The Technology Innovation Fund, newly launched through Rockefeller’s Bridges to Better Medicine Forum, will finance four short-term projects a year, each with approximately $50,000, in a process to be administered by the university’s Office of Scientific and Facility Operations.

Established in 2003, the Bridges to Better Medicine Forum encourages knowledge exchange among scientists and investors, analysts and industry executives, for the purpose of advancing “bench-to-bedside” research. With the seed grant, the Bridges initiative is now contributing to the research enterprise at Rockefeller.

“We hope that others will join in contributing to this fund to enable it to be a catalyst for better medicine,” says Russell Pennoyer, president of the Achelis and Bodman Foundations. The Technology Innovation Fund is aimed at research that is no longer in its early stages but has not yet been developed into a market-ready product — research that is particularly difficult to fund through traditional sources.

“The National Institutes of Health and other such organizations offer very few individual funding opportunities for this kind of research, because they don’t consider it basic research. Similarly, industry resources like pharmaceutical and medical technology companies don’t want to fund something until there’s a product they can market,” says Associate Vice President for Technology Transfer Kathleen Denis. “With this kind of dedicated funding, we’re poised to give these important projects the push they need to continue.” Grants may pay for further experimental data, for example, or to reduce an invention to practice, enable a successful patent application or make a technology more commercially interesting to investors.

Project proposals will be judged along several criteria, including: novelty of the technology and its likelihood of leading to patents or other intellectual property; sufficient demonstration of proof of concept; feasibility of budget and timeframe estimates; and strength of market potential and cost-benefit ratio, among other factors. Grants will be awarded to four investigators each year, for between $30,000 and $70,000 each and for projects of 3 to 12 months’ duration.

Proposals will be reviewed and chosen by a committee of life sciences, industry and investing professionals: Peter Goodfellow, former discovery executive at GlaxoSmithKline and a Rockefeller University visiting scholar in 2007; Teena Lerner, Rockefeller alumna and founding head of hedge fund management firm Rx Capital; Paul Maddon, member of The Rockefeller University Council, former Howard Hughes Medical Institute researcher and founding executive of Progenics Pharmaceuticals; and Lewis Sanders, Rockefeller University trustee and CEO and chairman of investment research firm AllianceBernstein.

“The unique expertise of these individuals will give us the breadth of perspective to enable some truly promising work,” says Denis.

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