8th Annual Celebration of Technology & Innovation

Each year the Office of Technology Transfer (OTT) hosts a celebration to highlight the technology and innovation of Emory’s faculty. Last Thursday, March 6th was our 8th annual celebration and it was another successful event even with the rainy weather. After opening remarks from David Wynes, Vice President for Research Administration and David Stephens, Vice President for Research in the Health Sciences Center, the keynote speaker Christopher Yochim, Director, External Relations, Global Product and Portfolio Strategy, AstraZeneca, gave an interesting talk highlighting how industry can work with academia.

Chris spoke in-depth about partnerships between pharma and academia. With declining revenue and R&D productivity, pharmaceutical companies need to add to their pipelines and increase awareness of innovative science. In addressing these needs they are increasingly turning to universities and academic medical centers to build strategic alliances and partnerships. Due to decreases in support from the federal government for research, these partnerships present new and interesting opportunities for academia. Chris talked about how aligning the interests of all parties involved had many challenges, but that they could be overcome. He emphasized that it often comes down to relationships and visibility from both scientists and the technology transfer office of the university. Pharma companies send teams of staff to these meetings to meet with the leaders in the field and discuss their research. Specifically he emphasized that if a representative speaks to a scientist at a scientific conference, it is not an accident. They are interested in their research and want to learn more, so if given a business card and asked to follow-up – do it!

The highlight of the evening is always the presentation of awards and this year was no exception. There were three awards presented:

Start-up of 2013: Neurotrack
Stuart Zola, PhD and Cecelia Manzanares (Yerkes); Eugene Agichtein, PhD and Dmitry Lagun, MS (math & computer science)
Neurotrack is an early-stage company that has developed computer-based tools for memory testing and behavioral assessment. The tools identify those at risk of Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment well in advance of clinical disease diagnoses.

Deal of 2013: QUE Oncology
Dennis Liotta, PhD and Jim Snyder, PhD (chemistry); Hyunsuk Shim, PhD (radiology); Mary Galinski, PhD (infectious diseases & global health)
QUE Oncology, headquartered in Atlanta, is focused on the development of drugs to treat cancer and its consequences. As a joint venture between Emory University and UniQuest (Queensland, Australia), QUE Oncology has licensed two technologies from Emory, one that targets prostate cancer and one that targets breast cancer risk and hot flashes associated with estrogen hormone therapy.

Innovation of 2013: RSV Vaccine Technology
Martin Moore, PhD (pediatrics)
RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) is a major cause of lower respiratory tract infections in infants, children and the elderly. Vaccine development has been challenging and currently no RSV vaccine exists. Dr. Moore and his colleagues have used an alternative strategy to develop a vaccine focused on mutating certain genes of the virus to create a stable, live-attenuated RSV strain. This new recombinant RSV strain serves as a promising vaccine candidate currently being tested against RSV.

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