Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego accelerated its capability to deliver its research and technology advances to the commercial sector with the opening of a business cultivation office on the Scripps campus.
The von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center, based at UC San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering, opened a satellite office in Scripps’ Vaughan Hall on March 6. Although new to the Scripps campus, the von Liebig Center (vLC) has been a presence at UCSD since 2001 as the first commercialization facility of its kind in the country.
The von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center bridges the gap between the university and the private sector with supporting grants, mentorship from business experts, and graduate-level entrepreneurism education.
“Moving discoveries and technological advances out of the lab and into the market is beneficial to society and provides an additional revenue stream at a time when federal funding is growing ever more competitive,” said Wendy Hunter Barker, director of institutional initiatives at Scripps. “This partnership with vLC helps Scripps accomplish its mission of seeking, teaching, and communicating scientific understanding for the benefit of society and the environment."
A prime example of the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center’s business acumen can be seen in the evolving success story of Scripps’ marine drug discovery program. Although the field of marine biomedicine research was largely launched several decades ago by Scripps’ Bill Fenical, director of the Scripps Center for Marine Biotechnology and Biomedicine (CMBB), a new path fostered with von Liebig Center’s influence is taking flight.
Paul Jensen, a CMBB research microbiologist and Fenical’s longtime colleague and scientific collaborator, described at the center’s office opening how von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center experts Rosibel Ochoa and Michael Krupp helped create a vehicle to deliver Scripps marine drug discovery to the business sector. Jensen’s expertise lies in the discovery of marine “natural products” that can one day be useful in treating a variety of diseases and illnesses. Although two compounds discovered by Fenical and Jensen have advanced to clinical testing, they hope to establish a steady pipeline that moves their discoveries to drug development, clinical evaluation, and approval, with the hope of directing dollars derived from end products back to Scripps and the university.Readily acknowledging his lack of expertise in the corporate world, Jensen has been working with Krupp and others in the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center to develop a business plan to model such a pipeline. To bolster the business plan, the team enlisted students from UC San Diego’s Rady School of Management to work on financing and “crunching numbers” as part of their MBA training.
The team coalesced with “Aequoreus Pharma Innovation,” a fledgling startup company targeting the business niche between the pharmaceutical industry and academia, and it took first place in December at the inaugural Triton Greenovation Challenge, a Scripps Foundation-sponsored competition designed to accelerate the commercialization of novel, environmentally focused technologies developed by students and researchers at UC San Diego (See:http://sio.ucsd.edu/Announcements/TGN).
“The idea is to create an intermediary who would take discoveries from our level and add value to them by acquiring additional pre-clinical data. These discoveries could then be sold to other interested parties who would take them through clinical trials,” said Jensen, “Von Liebig has created a nice opportunity for us. I don’t have a lot of time to think about financing and other details…so it’s been a very nice interaction. The new company is still in a formative stage but we’re enthusiastic about it moving forward.”
In addition to Jensen, Ochoa, and Krupp, other speakers at the March 6 satellite office opening included Mary Zoeller, a von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center advisor who discussed mentoring and funding availabilities, as well as Sasha Gershunov, a Scripps scientist who has worked with von Liebig advisors in developing climate research for business applications.