Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Commercializing Research

Commercializing Research

Today's WashU student newspaper has an article about the university's new vice-chancellor for research.

The new guy is a prof in DBBS - the Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences. This seems like a good person to bridge between the Medical campus and the Hilltop (er, I mean Danforth) campus.

That's because DBBS trains grad students (and lots of 'em!) who are enrolled in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (just like I am), but it's located in the medical complex because of the obvious synergies between their basic research and the work of the medical school.

This item is all the more interesting as it comes on the heels of a Sunday Business section article in the Post-Dispatch that's critical of WashU's conservative approach to commercializing the fruits of its basic research, particularly in regarding to biotechnology.

In that article, the prominent and well-respected leaders of both of the St. Louis region's biotech business incubators - Marcia Mellitz of the Center for Emerging Technologies in Midtown and Bob Calcaterra of the Nidus Center in Creve Coeur - were quoted as being disappointed at the progress in translating WashU research into patents and commercially viable products/techniques.

One wonders whether this debate is being released to the media strategically, or if it just happened to come out. The WashU-backed Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures is working to get signatures to get an initiative on the ballot later this year to preserve the legality of embryonic stem cell research.

Perhaps the fear that this initiative will fail, and that Missouri might prohibit such research, contributes to the lack of progress in commercializing whatever work is being done in the WashU labs?

Maybe not, but it's a possibility.

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