Yale Announces New Biotech Firm

March 27, 1998

Yale Announces Formation Of Valuable New Biotechnology Firm That Could Help Boost New Haven-Area Economy

Yale Reaches Top National Ranking In Technology Transfer

New Haven, Conn. -- Yale University today announced an agreement to help launch Molecular Staging Inc. (MSI), a promising new biotechnology firm that will be located in the New Haven area. The company has acquired from Yale innovative genetic technologies that could revolutionize medical diagnostics, according to Gregory E. Gardiner, director of Yale's Office of Cooperative Research (OCR).

MSI, which initially plans to hire 20-30 people and to occupy 10,000 square feet of laboratory space, is the fourth biotechnology company based on Yale research discoveries to be launched this year, Gardiner said. He added that he hopes to maintain a pace of launching three or four new companies each year and is already far along with planning for the next group.

"Yale is taking a more active role in forming start-up companies in an effort to make sure the New Haven area reaps economic benefits from the University's research," said Gardiner, whose office is responsible for promoting development of Yale discoveries by the private sector. "Aside from creating jobs for about 70 people, the four companies are developing technologies that have the potential to significantly benefit human health throughout the world."

The firms are developing diagnostic tests for diseases ranging from Lyme disease to prostate cancer, refining techniques for locating genetic defects on chromosomes, studying receptors in the brain associated with chronic pain, and analyzing population genetics to unravel the causes of diseases that involve defects in multiple genes.

MSI, which is developing new methods important in diagnosing cancer and deadly viruses, is based on the research of a number of Yale scientists, said Acting President Michael I. Sherman, formerly of Roche and PharmGenics Inc. "Yale's Office of Cooperative Research has been unusually helpful in the process of putting together funding sources, guiding the patent application process and seeking laboratory space for this new venture," he added. "Organizing the company would have taken much longer without the OCR's participation."

A second new firm, polyGenomics Inc., is targeting complex diseases caused by defects in a number of genes, including psychiatric disorders such as panic, depression, anxiety and schizophrenia. Dr. Ronald Lennox, a partner at Collinson Howe & Lennox, a Stamford-based venture capital firm that is investing in polyGenomics Inc., said, "Yale's Office of Cooperative Research first introduced us to the idea of polyGenomics last spring and has worked with us since then to help get the company up and running. We have a great relationship with the individuals there and expect to be involved in many more Yale-based companies."

Describing the OCR's role, Gardiner said, "Yale receives the same amount of royalties and fees no matter where our spin-off companies eventually locate, but we recognize the importance of having a strong local economy and a vigorous business climate. By getting more involved in raising capital and developing business plans, Yale can encourage more companies to stay in the New Haven area."

Local companies also benefit from collaborating with researchers at the nearby Yale School of Medicine, which ranks fourth nationally in research funding from the National Institutes of Health and first in the number of researchers funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Gardiner noted.

Yale Reaches Top National Ranking in Technology Transfer

In recent years, Yale has become a national leader in technology transfer. In fact, Yale expects to earn $35 million this year from its scientific discoveries -- a dramatic tenfold increase in the last two years -- which could place Yale among the top five American universities in royalty and licensing income. Most of the earnings will be funneled back into the University's research, Gardiner said.

"At Yale, as at most other institutions, large royalty receipts reflect the success of one or two inventions. Yale's biggest success is Zerit, a leading HIV/AIDS medication developed by Bristol-Myers Squibb," Gardiner said. On the market for only three years, Zerit recently surpassed AZT as the most frequently prescribed medication in a class of drugs called reverse transcriptase inhibitors. Zerit was the fastest growing product for this major pharmaceutical firm in 1997, achieving growth of more than 185 percent on its way to reaching worldwide sales of $398 million. Millions of people with the HIV virus have been treated with the medication, which has been shown to significantly enhance and extend lives.

Yale also expects to earn significant royalties this year from a Lyme disease vaccine being developed by SmithKline Beecham, which is awaiting U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval. The vaccine will make Yale one of a handful of universities with two major successes in technology transfer.

In all, Yale's Office of Cooperative Research, which was formed in 1982, has helped Yale scientists establish eight public and more than 35 private spin-off companies that remain in business today and employ more than 750 people. About 25 of those companies are located in greater New Haven, in addition to the four new firms now seeking laboratory space. The market value of the public companies exceeds $1 billion.

Most of Yale's research discoveries are in biotechnology, a field that has experienced rapid growth in recent years. Today, the average salary for a biomedical research job in Connecticut exceeds $63,000 a year, and each new job generates 2.5 additional jobs in fields such as professional services, engineering and financial services, according to a recent survey. The survey -- which was conducted by Connecticut United for Research Excellence Inc., a coalition of more than 70 biomedical institutions and businesses that includes Yale -- also found that 25 to 35 jobs are created for every $1 million invested in biotechnology.

In addition, the survey identified a critical shortage of vacant laboratory space in Connecticut as a barrier to biotechnology's potential to contribute to the state's economic revitalization. Yale is working with state and local officials to find developers interested in constructing new laboratory space.

For more information about Yale's technology transfer initiatives, contact Gardiner at (203) 432-5446.

Yale University

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