Academic research base generates early stage technologies that potentially are of significant commercial relevance.
Technology emerging from the academic base will generally be immature and the commercial potential is often not well-understood.
UK government believes that university knowledge transfer activities contribute to the longer-term development of a strong knowledge based economy.
However a key impediment to such activity was the availability of funds to enable a ‘proposition’ to be developed to the stage where exploitation through licensing / spinout company creation is possible.
Multiple funding sources including UK Government (using part of UCL’s HEIF funding allocation), Regional Development Agency funds, internal retained profits from spinout exits/licensing income and most recently from commercial partnerships (e.g. Johnson & Johnson).
Typical activities supported using PoC funds
Building a demonstrator to show that an invention works in practice.
Improving an Intellectual Property position (e.g. further work to exemplify or broaden patent claims).
Market and business analysis to demonstrate the commercial potential of a proposition.
Adding ‘industrial strength’ coding and documentation.
Project funding levels: typically between £20-30k, although can commit up-to £100k per project.
Project Timeframes: typically 6 to 9 months with clearly defined milestones to be achieved which will enable downstream commercialisation to take place.
Review process is light touch BUT each application requires support of a UCLB technology transfer manager, who manages the project through its lifespan.
Projects have predominantly focused on opportunities emerging from the Engineering, Physical Science and Biomedicine faculties, however activities also supported in Arts & Humanities & Social & Historical Sciences.
Liver failure therapeutic market is annually worth over $500M. UCL research identified a compound which reduces ammonia levels in patients with acute liver disease.
UCLB initially invested ≈£65K PoC funds to validate and secure core IP position.
UCLB subsequently committed £500K of internal investment funds to support pre-phase I activities. Also allowed the team to draw down a further £750K from the UK’s MRC to support a Phase I clinical trial.
Following promising early results, the programme was exclusively licensed to Ocera Therapeutics in December 2008. UCL & Ocera continue to work collaboratively in order to take the therapy to market.
Case Study 2: Hepatic Encephalopathy Project “ Enabling therapeutic development and licensing ”