An elite $4 million grant received by the University of Louisville, the University of Kentucky, Commonwealth Commercialization Center (C3) and the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development demonstrates the power of partnership while paving the way to bring dozens of new med-tech and health-related companies to life across the state in the coming years.
The four-year Research Evaluation and Commercialization Hub (REACH) grant from the National Institutes of Health will help fund a public-private consortium, the Kentucky Network for Innovation & Commercialization – KYNETIC. The new organization will use NIH funding to advance the most promising biomedical research innovations from the state’s eight public universities and the Kentucky Community & Technical College System. Ultimately, its goal is to create startups that commercialize the technologies for public benefit.
KYNETIC, whose founding members will contribute a $2.56 million direct-cost match, will provide guidance and technical resources to advance the technologies toward commercialization. Additionally, KYNETIC will assist in scaling the resulting startups to help tackle some of the biggest health challenges facing the US population, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.
Innovations that KYNETIC will help bring to market may be new pharmaceuticals, therapies, devices and other health-related technologies. Those products could directly intervene in disease processes and conditions individuals suffer, or they may address health disparities like lack of health care access in rural areas or populations suffering disproportionate rates of disease and premature death.
As resulting startups move into clinical trials phases, many will rely on the strength of Kentucky’s public hospitals and health care systems.
UofL President Neeli Bendapudi said the expanding resources available through UofL Health will further support health care research.
“With the acquisition of Jewish Hospital and other KentuckyOne Health properties, researchers at UofL will have additional opportunities to recruit patients for clinical studies to advance research emerging from KYNETIC,” Bendapudi said. “Projects developed through KYNETIC will have the potential to further existing UofL research efforts in optimal aging, improve access to quality health care in underserved urban and rural regions, and bolster efforts to both attract and retain top faculty and students at UofL.”
In addition to its statewide approach, KYNETIC will intentionally seek both innovations and entrepreneurs from diverse and underrepresented groups.
Paula Bates, PhD, professor of medicine at UofL and co-principal investigator on the grant, said the state will benefit from broader collaborations facilitated by KYNETIC.
“When you get people from different backgrounds working together, you see innovation blossom,” Bates said. “I am looking forward to seeing some new collaborations, being able to share what we have learned and learn from other people in Kentucky. I think this is a really powerful way to reach everybody in Kentucky and get some great knowledge transferred and some great new ideas.”
Linda Dwoskin, PhD, UK professor of pharmaceutical sciences and co-principal investigator on the grant, said KYNETIC will benefit researchers, institutions and communities across Kentucky including underserved communities and populations.
“It is an honor to work with the University of Louisville, C3 and public academic institutions across the state to advance and accelerate innovative ideas that could lead to new products and technologies,” Dwoskin said. “Throughout the state we have untapped resources of inventive and entrepreneurial individuals and groups whom we hope to provide opportunities that will aid in transforming ideas and discoveries to tangible health benefits.”
“Kentucky’s ability to win this grant — one of only a handful ever awarded nationwide — was made possible in large part because of the unprecedented collaboration between our economic development cabinet, public universities and technical colleges in creating our non-profit commercialization center, C3,” said Governor Matt Bevin. “This grant further validates the significance of C3’s public-private structure and our decision to revitalize Kentucky’s innovation and entrepreneurial support system. Together, we can have a truly positive impact on the health of Kentuckians and people around the world.”
KYNETIC will leverage commercialization resources led by co-investigators Allen Morris, PhD, executive director of the UofL Commercialization EPI-Center, Ian McClure, executive director of the UK Office of Technology Commercialization, and April Turley director of C3’s Commercialization Core. It also will build on the experience brought by a current REACH hub at UofL (ExCITE) and other existing tech-transfer programs at UofL, as well as the regional IDeA biomedical technology transfer accelerator hub at UK
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