Changes Underway In Moving Medical Inventions To Customers

May 22, 2019

Officials from the Medical College of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Found say changes are underway that could help the public bring medical inventions to the marketplace. The ideas were outlined at a recent startup and technology forum in Milwaukee.

Medical research often takes a lot of time to turn into something to sell to people and benefit the research institution. Kevin Boggs took over a couple years ago as director of the Office of Technology Development at the Medical College of Wisconsin. Boggs told the 5 Lakes Forum last week that he's trying to speed up efforts to woo investors. 

Kevin Boggs of the Medical College of Wisconsin.
Credit Photo courtesy of the Medical College of Wisconsin

"We are giving faculty members, when they disclose their inventions to us, much more rapid turnaround on answers and getting it out so people — entrepreneurs — can see what we're doing, see our nimbleness, and that we can work at the speed of business. They realize that as they're looking for their next gig, that we get off our duffs and get the job done," Boggs said.

He later told WUWM that in the last year, the Medical College has signed six licenses with start-up companies. Of the 65 inventions the college's faculty have disclosed, about three-dozen patent applications have been filed. The hope to is license approved patents to the private sector.

As a past example, Boggs says one company is using a Medical College discovery to make it much easier for surgeons to monitor the health of transplanted hearts — even for child patients.

He notes that despite the desire for more speed to the marketplace, he's not asking the Food and Drug Administration to weaken any safeguards for the public. "Essentially, all the inventions our researchers make will ultimately have to have FDA review and approval, before they are actually ever used on a patient, or help a patient, whether it's a drug, or diagnostic or device," Boggs explains. "So, safety will be as guaranteed as the FDA, with their very strong resources, can make it."

The 5 Lakes Forum also heard from Erik Iverson, managing director of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, or WARF. WARF's legal mandate is to help discoveries at UW-Madison get to the marketplace. But Iverson says he's also looking at possible partnerships with places like UW-Milwaukee and the Medical College.

Erik Iverson of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF).
Credit Photo supplied by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.

"What if we match up technologies? Because if Kevin [Boggs of MCW] has a technology and I have a technology, and we put them together, we can create one helluva good company. And I can invest in that company, because now, Madison's technology is in it. And then we can turn to the investors and the entrepreneurs in this great state, and even call in some from outside of the state, and start building an ecosystem built on the system, or the state as a whole, not just in Madison, in my case," Iverson says.

WARF manages about $3 billion in assets, Iverson says, and has started to spend a couple hundred million of that on reducing the risk of new technology developed at Madison, and putting funds toward venture capital. 

It's a move that could further reshape how medical discoveries reach the public.

Support is provided by Dr. Lawrence and Mrs. Hannah Goodman for Innovation reporting.

Do you have a question about innovation in Wisconsin that you'd like WUWM's Chuck Quirmbach to explore? Submit it below.