Technology Transfer at Tulane University: History and Mission
Technology transfer at Tulane University moves cutting edge research into the broader community, educates external constituencies about the development and implications of the research and sees that the products of Tulane research are deployed to the broadest possible public benefit. Technology transfer, while viewed simply as a potential revenue source at some research institutions, has long been considered an important extension of Tulane University’s core missions of education, research and service.
Technology transfer began in earnest at Tulane well before the formal establishment of an office dedicated to the function. Key researchers in the School of Medicine sought patent protection for their inventions beginning the early 1980s, and worked proactively with industry to develop these inventions and bring them to market. Since that time, the Office of Technology Transfer and Intellectual Property Development has successfully moved the fruit of Tulane researchers into industrial collaborations aimed at bringing new technologies to market to deliver meaningful public benefit.
Today’s Office of Technology Transfer and Intellectual Property Development is developing inventions from faculty and trainees across the university, at present including inventions from the School of Medicine, the School of Science and Engineering, the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, and the School of Law. Broad vision, a wealth of experience and institutional support at the highest levels ensure that Tulane will remain a leader in university technology transfer well into the future.
Technology Transfer at Tulane University: A Record of Accomplishment
Peptide Chemistry. The field of peptide chemistry has been particularly strong at Tulane. Research in this area has led to three pharmaceutical peptides receiving regulatory approval and being used to treat patients in a variety of different indications.
- Triptorelin is used in the treatment of hormone-responsive cancers such as prostate cancer or breast cancer, precocious puberty, estrogen-dependent conditions (such as endometriosis or uterine fibroids), and in assisted reproduction. As of the end of 2007, triptorelin had marketing authorizations in more than 60 countries, including 25 in Europe. Triptorelin was originally developed in the lab of Dr. Andrew V. Schally, School of Medicine, who received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1977. Dr. Schally is now working at the University of Miami (Florida) and the South Florida VA Foundation for Research and Education.
- Lanreotide is a medication used in the management of acromegaly and symptoms caused by neuroendocrine tumors, most notably carcinoid syndrome. It is a long-acting analog of somatostatin. It is available in several countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada, and was approved for sale in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration on August 30, 2007. Lanreotide was developed in the lab of Dr. David H. Coy, School of Medicine. Dr. Coy serves as Director of the Peptide Laboratory.
- Cetrorelix acetate is a synthetic decapeptide used to treat hormone-sensitive cancers of the prostate and breast in pre-/perimenopausal women and to treat some benign gynecological disorders. Cetrorelix is also used in assisted reproduction. Cetrorelix was launched in Europe in 1999, in the United States in 2001 and in Japan in 2006, and is approved in more than 90 countries. The drug was developed in Dr. Andrew V. Schally’s laboratory.
Two other Tulane peptides are currently in clinical trials. The first, for ovarian and endometrial cancer, was developed by Dr. Andrew V. Schally. The second, for pain management, was developed by Dr. James Zadina, School of Medicine. Another promising Tulane peptide is scheduled to enter its first clinical trial in spring 2011 as an anti-influenza drug. This compound, and a number of other promising related peptides, were developed by Dr. Robert F. Garry, School of Medicine.
Diagnostics for Infectious Diseases. Tulane has had significant success in the diagnostic field, developing a highly accurate test for the presence of Lyme disease. The veterinary version of this diagnostic technology is incorporated into one of the most widely used animal tests in the United States and is also sold in Europe, Canada and more than 20 other countries. The invention that led to these diagnostic tests was made by Dr. Mario T. Philipp, Tulane National Primate Research Center.
Vaccines for Infectious Diseases. In the vaccine field, a vaccine adjuvant developed at Tulane is currently being developed by PATH, an international nonprofit organization, for use in children’s health in developing countries. If successful, this vaccine would play a major role in reducing diarrheal disease caused by enterotoxigenic E. coli, a major cause of illness and death in developing countries. Another philanthropic organization is evaluating use of this adjuvant in a vaccine against polio, also for use in children in developing countries. The adjuvant was developed in the lab of Dr. John D. Clements, School of Medicine.
Medical Devices. Tulane is currently developing two medical devices. The first is a catheter to improve the placement of leads for bi-ventricular pacemakers, invented by Dr. John Pigott, School of Medicine. The second is an obstetric device that clamps and cuts the umbilical cord in one integrated movement. This device was designed with the goal of improving health outcomes in developing countries, where traditional birth procedures often involve unsanitary conditions leading to high incidences of infant and maternal illness and death. This device was invented by undergraduate students, led by William Kethman, under the supervision of Dr. David Rice, School of Science and Engineering.
Calibrants. In 2010 Tulane successfully licensed novel dendrimer constructs to improve the calibration of mass spectroscopy machines. These inexpensive constructs improve the accuracy of these high-end analytic tools at a greatly reduced cost. They were introduced to the market under the trade name SpheriCal ™ and were developed in the lab of Dr. Scott Grayson, School of Science and Engineering.
Other Intellectual Property in Development. Outside of biotechnology, Tulane is currently developing technologies for environmental remediation, improvement of industrial processes, a mosquito trap to reduce mosquito-borne disease, software for the resolution of legal questions and many others.