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12.16.2010

Third UM Innovation Unites Research and Business

In his presentation to members of the scientific and business communities gathered at the third annual UM Innovation Technology Showcase, Jochen Reiser, M.D., Ph.D., Miller School physician/scientist and nephrology expert, noted that about 500 million people worldwide have proteinuria, a prelude to renal failure.

That also happens to be the number of people who one day could benefit from three products derived from Reiser’s research that are in development for the early-stage diagnosis and treatment of proteinuria, an abnormal amount of protein in the urine and a sign of chronic kidney disease.

Reiser, professor of medicine, cell biology and anatomy, chief of the Division of Nephrology and Hypertension, director of the Peggy and Harold Katz Family Drug Discovery Center and vice chair for research in the Department of Medicine, was among the UM and outside researchers who showcased their work at the University’s annual forum where researchers meet potential investors interested in bringing discoveries from the lab to the marketplace, potentially helping millions of people globally.

“Dr. Reiser’s work is one outstanding example of the many scientific breakthroughs occurring within the walls of the Miller School and the entire University of Miami,” said Miller School Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and CEO of UHealth-University of Miami Health System, who welcomed the UM Innovation Corporate Advisory Council during the showcase’s December 9 opening meeting. The group of high-ranking executives from medicine and industry, intellectual property law and other areas was established to help advance UM Innovation’s mission.

“We want to tear down these walls to give our dedicated researchers every opportunity to bring their discoveries to as wide an audience as possible,” Dean Goldschmidt added, as he highlighted the impressive research under way at Miller School centers and institutes, and described the remarkable promise of the UM Life Science and Technology Park (UM LSTP), a biotech research hub under construction near the medical school campus. The Miller School centers, institutes and scientific initiatives featured in the Dean’s presentation include Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Diabetes Research Institute, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, Batchelor Children’s Research Institute, the Hussman Institute for Human Genomics, the Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute, and the Biomedical Nanoscience Initiative of University of Miami – BioNIUM, which also held its annual retreat on December 9 and 10.

Connected at last year’s showcase, Reiser and partners are forming NephGen, a biotech start-up that plans to turn his lab’s discoveries into products that can be made available to sufferers of kidney ailments everywhere.

“We are finally positioned to act strongly against kidney diseases with more effective treatment concepts, and that’s the foundation on which we are building NephGen,” Reiser said after his presentation to an audience that included Provost Thomas J. LeBlanc, Ph.D., Phillip T. George, M.D., chair of the UM Board of Trustees, and Marcelo Radice, M.B.A., director of Inter-American Initiatives in the Office of Special Programs, where he organizes the annual technology showcase.

Members of the Advisory Council — representing companies such as Allergan, Alcon, Amylin Pharmaceuticals, BD Biosciences, Fidelity Biosciences, Elizabeth Arden, Goldman Sachs, MPM Capital, The Trout Group, Barclays Capital and Wexford Science and Technology, the University’s development partner for UM LSTP — keenly observed the presentations and took notes for the question-and-answer and advice sessions that followed.

“The advisory council members are people who have real company experience, who could help move some of the great technology being developed at the University of Miami beyond academia and into commercial applications and commercial development,” said council member Alan S. Roemer, M.B.A., M.P.H., senior vice president of The Trout Group. “There is the potential to get some of these technologies moved into companies and seeing some of the dollars cycling back to generate additional research capabilities for the University.”

Acknowledging the advisory council’s service, George said the body is crucial to the University and, indeed, the region, as South Florida competes to establish the next significant biotech corridor.

“We are a young university and don’t yet have years and years of experience in translational opportunities,” George said. “And because we have so rapidly increased material that could be translated, we are moving at a pretty rapid pace so we need people who have done this before and know what to expect.”

In addition to Reiser’s discoveries in nephrology, showcase attendees had the opportunity to learn more about other research with enormous therapeutic potential, such as new developments from Joshua Hare, M.D., director of the Miller School’s Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute, who is using stem cells to treat heart failure and many other diseases. More than a dozen other faculty members made presentations, among them Eli Gilboa, Ph.D., Dodson Professor of Microbiology and Immunology and co-leader of the Tumor Immunology Program at Sylvester; W. Dalton Dietrich, Ph.D., scientific director of The Miami Project; and Thomas Temple, M.D., professor of orthopaedics and pathology and director of the University of Miami Tissue Bank, which is set to occupy 80,000 square feet in UM LSTP.

Several companies that are new-to-market or have new discoveries were also part of the showcase. Justin Daya, chief operating officer, and Kanti Daya, M.D., CEO of Daya Medicals, Inc., demonstrated the MedPod, their automatic, real-time medication dispensing device. The company is among the first tenants slated to move into UM LSTP. Other presenters included Bio-Nucleonics, CellSolutions, Converge Biotech, Emmetrope, Heat Biologics, Inflamacore, InnSting, Metabogenix Technologies, Ophysio, and Pique Therapeutics.

The second day of UM Innovation featured additional remarks from Dean Goldschmidt, Richard Bookman, Ph.D., vice provost for research, and Robert Zivin, Ph.D., senior director in the Corporate Office of Science and Technology at Johnson & Johnson, who gave the keynote address on discovery research in academia and industry and how the two worlds communicate to develop the best science to combat disease.

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