NIH is open for business

By Mike Lewis
Ajoy H. Prabhu of the National Institutes of Health speaks during a technology showcase at Hagerstown Community College last month. He was one of several speakers who talked about ways businesses could partner with NIH entities.

Speakers pitch ways agency can work with large and small companies

By Mike Lewis
mlewis@crossroadsbizjournal.com

By Mike Lewis
Ajoy H. Prabhu of the National Institutes of Health speaks during a technology showcase at Hagerstown Community College last month. He was one of several speakers who talked about ways businesses could partner with NIH entities.

HAGERSTOWN, Md. — Officials with the National Institutes of Health spent the better part of a day at Hagerstown (Md.) Community College recently, talking about how NIH agencies can work with private companies of all sizes.

They said private companies can benefit in many ways from helping NIH fulfill its mission. Depending upon the situation, NIH can help with everything from equipment and funding to accessing researchers.

But NIH has to reach its goals, too, said Joseph M. Conrad III, senior technology transfer specialist with the National Cancer Institute.

“If you want to partner with us, it’s for mutual benefit,” he said.

Conrad moderated a discussion with three panelists who talked about technology transfers, licensing and other topics.

“There’s a lot of stuff that comes out of NIH that really benefits people’s lives all over the world, not just the United States. … We have collaborations all over the world,” said Ajoy Prabhu, chief of the marketing unit of the Office of Technology Transfer.

Companies can work in technology transfer in a variety of ways, from holding licenses to conducting research to operating trials, he said.

He pointed to FluMist as an example of a commercial product that was developed through a partnership with NIH.

“We’ve started working with university startups. We want to be as flexible as possible,” Prabhu said.

NIH is made up of 27 institutes and centers. Each has a specific research agenda that often focuses on particular diseases or body systems.

Given that complexity, the speakers encouraged business leaders and researchers to contact NIH about potential projects.

“The only thing you need to know is what you’re looking for. … It’s not really a program as such. It’s a one-on-one thing,” Prabhu said.

“Don’t worry about money,” added Michael Shmilovich, a senior licensing and patent manager with the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. “We are much more interested in your brain power than your wallet.”

A variety of licensing opportunities are available in areas such as developing vaccines, said the third panelist, Haiqing Li, senior technology transfer and patent specialist with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Later in the day, speakers talked about funding opportunities, such as the Small Business Innovation Research Program.

The technology showcase was hosted by Janice Riley, manager of the Technical Innovation Center at Hagerstown Community College, and Amanda Johnston, executive director of the Fort Detrick Alliance. Some NIH operations are housed at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md.

Riley said it’s “an easy fit” for the Technical Innovation Center to work with the alliance and the ventures at Fort Detrick. The military installation is about a half-hour drive from Hagerstown, she said.