The University, which counts Bank of America and Office Depot among its long-standing trusted partners, is making a concerted effort to elevate its corporate engagement. More recently, scientists from Sancilio & Co., Inc., a local biotech company, have developed a graduate course giving students hands-on laboratory experience in preparing and analyzing pharmaceutical solutions. Aside from giving the students new skills, this course is also helping train the highly skilled employees biopharmaceutical and drug development companies need.
The university recently charged Anton Post, Ph.D., associate vice president for corporate and international relations, with spearheading an increased effort to engage with corporations to promote economic growth and achieve cutting-edge research.
Imagine trying to create a medicine for an incurable form of muscular dystrophy.
While it may seem like an impossible task to some, that’s the initial focus of Expansion Therapeutics, a drug discovery and development company working on developing medicines for diseases that have no cures.
And, according to co-founder Matthew Disney, Ph.D., the company’s partnership with FAU helps turn the impossible into the possible.
“FAU has been invaluable for us because we are an early-stage company and we have raised a significant amount of capital," he said. "That money goes extremely quickly because there are a lot of moving pieces in trying to make a drug that is virtually unimaginable. These patients need it very badly.”
“Speed is critical. We needed the ability to have a place that would be very efficient and allow us to tie in to key infrastructure. FAU has allowed us to do that very quickly. It allowed us to get things moving at lightning speed and it allowed us to leverage all the infrastructure that was in Jupiter, which is very unique and very invaluable.”
It’s potential partnerships like this that piqued the interest of some 40 companies that attended a day-long event, Discovery at FAU — Your Partner in Innovation, hosted by the Division of Research and the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County, to learn about the university’s corporate engagement strategies.
Vice President for Research Daniel Flynn, Ph.D., led the day, talking about FAU’s direction, assets and partnership opportunities. While its research is broad and far-ranging, the university focuses on neuroscience; healthy aging; sensing and smart systems; and ocean engineering and environmental sciences.
“We think we have a lot to offer here,” Flynn said, adding that it all starts with a conversation. “The challenge to potential partners is to determine the things at FAU that intersect with your interest. Then, ascertain if we can collaborate in those areas and partner in meaningful ways, not only to promote the local economy and economic development, but to execute projects of mutual interest.” Upon aligning the university’s strengths and interests with a company’s, FAU will then identify funding opportunities.
Thomas Kodadek, Ph.D., of Deluge Biotechnologies, is the recipient of funding from the King Foundation — in collaboration with Gregg Fields, Ph.D., chair of FAU’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry — to develop candidate drugs to test against proteins known to contribute to cancer metastasis.
In addition, Deluge recently moved into lab space on the John D. MacArthur campus in Jupiter. “It's very nice space,” Kodadek says. “I'm very grateful to FAU. If it weren’t for that (space), there's really no place else to work around here.”
Maneesh Pingle, Ph.D., of BlinkBio, agrees. The biotechnology company started using FAU’s Jupiter space in December to develop new technologies that would “deliver toxin payloads to cancer cells selectively and kill them.”
While the current partnership includes only infrastructure, Pingle said, “We’d like to try to see if there’s a way to have a couple of interns from FAU who can work with us. It’s good for us and it’s good for them.”