Harvard hopes $50M gift will bring Biomedical Accelerator to self sufficiency
Harvard University hopes that a $50 million gift will bring enough early stage projects to a partnering event so that its Biomedical Accelerator will be self-sustaining in eight to 12 years.
Last week, the Blavatnik Family Foundation donated $50 million to the accelerator, which Harvard Chief Technology Officer Isaac Kohlberg formed in 2007 to identify early stage technologies at the university and prepare them for licensing and commercial development.
"One of the biggest challenges that any research university has in commercializing technology is the fact that research discoveries are very nascent and there is a scarcity of funds to undertake the activities that are necessary to position the technology for a partnerable event," Kohlberg told BioCentury.
The accelerator is designed to bridge the gap by providing grants to Harvard researchers to develop projects, with a focus on therapeutics.
"One of the critical components of our structure is that we first go out and talk to potential industry partners, investors and experts to identify exactly what needs to be done to upgrade the value of a project in terms of attracting partners," said Harvard CSO Curtis Keith. "We can then take the proposal to the accelerator review committee and develop a suitable budget."
The review committee of external industry experts then selects grant recipients. Each grant typically ranges from $200,000-$250,000 for one year, which may be extended for a second year.
The accelerator has funded 37 projects to date, half of which have been licensed.
Keith said that 20% of the upfront, milestone, royalty and equity payments that Harvard receives from partnered projects are funneled back into the accelerator. He declined to disclose details of a typical licensing deal.
"The hope is that our accelerator will reach self sufficiency and fund itself in about eight to 12 years without having to raise funds beyond this $50 million gift," said Kohlberg.
Five of the original accelerator projects have formed newcos, including SciFluor Life Science LLC, which spun out in 2011 to use fluorination technology developed at Harvard to rescue unsuccessful drug candidates or to manage product lifecycles (see BioCentury, July 25, 2011).
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