Marshfield Clinic Aims to Boost Tech Transfer With Cleveland’s Help

The next scientific discovery with the potential to revolutionize healthcare could come from anywhere, whether it’s a massive Boston hospital or a rural Midwestern clinic. But when it comes to the complicated process of taking those discoveries to market, a Boston research team is going to have access to resources its rural brethren can only dream of.

Finding ways to level that playing field is one aim of the Healthcare Innovation Alliance network, a group of eight healthcare systems, universities, and organizations that have banded together to commercialize medical innovations faster. The three-year-old alliance is led by Cleveland Clinic, which makes its more established commercialization staff and resources available to partners in exchange for a negotiated royalty from each technology it helps license or spin off as a company.

Last summer the alliance added its first Wisconsin member, and it wasn’t from Madison or Milwaukee. It was Marshfield Clinic, a highly regarded medical institution named for the small central Wisconsin city of about 19,000 people in which it’s based.

Research has been an emphasis for decades at Marshfield Clinic, which was founded in 1916 and formed a research arm in 1959. Some of its notable research achievements include developing a blood test in the 1960s for detecting the microbes that cause farmer’s lung, an allergic disease usually brought on by moldy hay or crops that can result in permanent lung damage; diagnosing in 2003 the first case in the western hemisphere of a human infected with monkeypox virus; and discovering in the early 1990s so-called short tandem repeat polymorphisms, which are genetic markers that help researchers identify specific parts of chromosomes that could cause disease.

Formal efforts to commercialize research are relatively new at Marshfield Clinic, however. In 2006 it formed a division partly focused on overseeing intellectual property, resulting in just two license agreements so far, said Marsha Barwick, Marshfield Clinic Applied Sciences director.

“We had some successes, a few good wins. We felt like we had more innovative technologies out there,” Barwick said. “We knew we had to dedicate more resources to making this a priority.”

Rather than building up their applied sciences division, which has a staff of two, Marshfield Clinic decided to find a partner with an existing commercialization infrastructure and proven track record, Barwick said.

Marshfield found what it was looking for … Next Page »

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