Report Details Economic Impact of Federal Support for Research

May 11, 2010

Software that screens new drugs for dangerous cardiac side effects was developed by Jean-Philippe Couderc (center) with support from NIH. A version of the software is now being developed and marketed by iCardiac Technologies.

A new report released today by The Science Coalition – a national organization of research universities – highlights the link between federally funded research and economic growth. The report, titled “Sparking Economic Growth,” traces the origins of 100 companies – including 3 University of Rochester start-up companies – to federally supported research conducted at universities. 

“The federal partnership with our nation’s research universities has been pivotal to the economic success of our nation since the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health were created in the 1940s and 1950s,” said University of Rochester President Joel Seligman. “Continued federal investments in basic research will not only enable us to address the great scientific questions of the 21st century, but they will lay a foundation for a dramatic transformation of our economy in the decades to come.”

Over the last five years, the University of Rochester has received $1.8 billion in total research funding; approximately $1.4 billion of that total is from federal agencies. For the past 8 years, the University of Rochester has been among the top ten institutions in the country in the amount of royalty revenue it receives from the technologies it licenses to companies. 

The Science Coalition report illustrates the substantial economic benefits to the United States when companies are created as a result of discoveries in federally funded university laboratories. iCardiac Technologies is an example of this return on investment. The company, which was founded in 2006, is based on a software technology that can identify and analyze minute variations in electronic heart monitors. One of the uses of this technology is to identify potential risks associated with experimental drugs. The software currently being developed and marketed by the company was originally created with support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“Federally supported university research has been at the core of both the development and the validation of the fundamental technologies supporting iCardiac Technologies,” said Jean-Philippe Couderc, Ph.D., the chief technology office at iCardiac Technologies and an associate professor of Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC). “Without this support, iCardiac would not have been able to revolutionize the field of cardiac safety for drug development with more accurate and cost effective tools now used by five of the top ten pharmaceutical companies. These tools allow safer drugs to be brought to market for millions of people. We hope that this critical engine of the U.S. innovation economy will continue to create valuable technologies which can improve life for people throughout the world.”

Other University of Rochester start-up companies mentioned in the report include:

  • Vaccinex, Inc. is a biotechnology company that is developing human monoclonal antibody technologies to treat a number diseases, including cancer, autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, and inflammatory diseases. The company was founded in 1997 by URMC scientist Maurice Zauderer, Ph.D. based on technology developed with the support of NIH. 
  • Praxis Biologics was founded in 1983 by URMC scientists David Smith, M.D., Porter Anderson, Ph.D., and David Insel, M.D. The company’s core technology was a new vaccine discovery process – called conjugate vaccine technology – which gave rise to two pediatric vaccines that target bacteria that are collectively the leading causes of pneumonia, spinal meningitis, and blood and middle ear infections in children.  In 2009, following a series of transactions, the Praxis technologies were acquired by Pfizer. The original research behind Praxis was funded by NIH. 

The success stories highlighted in the new report are a sample of the many companies that have sprung from the discoveries made by federally funded, university-based research. As the report points out, in addition to job creation, these companies are addressing some of society’s most pressing issues in the fields of medicine, energy, communication, information technology, and national security. Additionally, the university-based research at the root of these companies provides employment for researchers, technicians and support personnel, and serves as a training ground for future generations of scientists, engineers, doctors, teachers and entrepreneurs. 

The Sparking Economic Growth report also notes that companies spun out of research universities tend to perform better than typical start-ups. Host universities often act as incubators, helping transition an idea from concept to reality. Each year, approximately 4-5 start-up companies are created based on University of Rochester technologies. Many of these ventures benefit from the web of resources that the University of Rochester has helped assemble to assist the region’s early stage technology companies. These resources include Excell Partners, High Tech Rochester, the Rochester BioVenture Center, and the Center for Electronic Imaging Systems

The Science Coalition is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization of 45 of the nation’s leading public and private research universities, including the University of Rochester. It is dedicated to sustaining the federal government’s investment in basic research as a means to stimulate the economy, drive innovation and secure America’s global competitiveness. The organization developed the Sparking Economic Growth report to illustrate one way in which federal investment in basic research helps stimulate the economy. The report is available at www.sciencecoalition.org/successstories/ along with a database of companies created from federally funded university research.

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Mark Michaud
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