Burnham’s Commitment to Collaborative Research




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Video title: Burnham’s Commitment to Collaborative Research
Released on: April 07, 2009. © PharmaVentures Ltd
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Robert Zaugg, VP Business Development at the Burnham Institute for Medical Research, gives his perspective of the scientific capability and achievements of the Institute's many locations. The wide range of activities that the Institute has are all funded by federal grants, philanthropists or through collaborations with large pharmaceutical companies. With many pharmaceutical companies turning their attention to early stage research, the Burnham Institute will have an important role to play in the next few years.
Burnham's origins and it's growth as one of the largest independent Medical Research Institutes in the United States.
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to PharmaVentures business review here in San Francisco. On this show I have Robert Zaugg who is the Vice President of Business Development at the Burnham Institute for Medical Research. Welcome to the show.
Robert Zaugg:
Thanks so much for having me.
Fintan Walton:
Pleasure and what we want to do today is to talk about Burnham because it's an institute that's risen to quite a large size in recent years but it's history goes back over 30-years. So to give us a perspectives of Burnham and it's origins, could you just give us how it was founded and where it originally set out and how it's now grown to one of the largest independent Medical Research Institutes in the United States?
Robert Zaugg:
Right, so it was founded as you say about 30-years ago originally as a cancer research institute focusing on early stage cancer research and the mechanisms of oncology and cancer development. It was founded in La Jolla, it's still based in La Jolla, California and Santiago were we've grown to a campus of about 10 acres and 300,000 square feet of lab space and about 700 employees at that location. We recently expanded our operations to Orlando, Florida were we are building a large research institute there they will focus largely on diabetes and obesity research. We've also established a satellite lab in Santa Barbara at the campus of University of California, Santa Barbara that's focused on nanotechnology and in La Jollaitself we've branched out now beyond the cancer to add research capabilities in neuroscience and inflammatory and infectious disease research as well.
Burnham's source of fundings and financing.
Fintan Walton:
Right. So obviously to run such a wide range of activities financing and income is important for the institute. So where is the main source of funds and how are those funds obtained?
Robert Zaugg:
By, by large part our funding comes from Federal Granting Agencies principally the National Institutes of Health the NIH of approximately 90% of our annual budget which in the last fiscal year exceeded a $110 million comes from these federal funding sources. We also have a significant portion of our income from philanthropic sources and a smaller portion from -- from the deals that we do that I'm responsible for in finding partners for our technology that then make payments to us in return for rights to develop our science.
Fintan Walton:
Right. So one of the key things that you said is that the institute has risen in ranking --
Robert Zaugg:
Right.
Fintan Walton:
In recent year's, so what was it that has made that actually happen for the Burnham Institute?
Robert Zaugg:
It's really a reflection of our commitment to doing collaborative research this is something that is endemic if you will it's part of our, it's really part of our mission statement that our faculty will work collaboratively with each other as well as with scientist and other institutions and this is permitted us to pursue and win large grants from the -- from the NIH in particular that addresses large questions in science not an individual scientist working in a single lab but multiple investigators from different disciplines all focusing on a single large problem. And that's a trend that's been taking place over the recent year's at NIH in terms of what they are interested in funding and we've responded and then quite successful therefore in appealing to that trend and to winning these large grants.
Burnham Institute: leaning towards the commercial end and where the institute is placed between pure and applied research.
Fintan Walton:
So where is the Burnham Institute placed in between pure and applied research? Is it -- is it out there to look at the basic fundamentals of life science and the medical condition or is it leaning more towards the specific needs with the commercial end, the applied end?
Robert Zaugg:
I would say it's leaning more towards the commercial end although we certainly have faculty members who are pursuing very fundamental questions in their field of science whether it's oncology or some of the other areas I mentioned. But we do certainly have a large number of faculty we number -- we number now about 70 faculty members and a good portion of them are keen on having their science translated into commercial products and we are establishing infrastructure now at the institute to help them do that, a part of it is funded by again by Federal Granting Agencies who again that the agencies are interested in seeing this translation take place as well but we are also pursuing other sources of funding including philanthropy to make this shift to allow the products that we can -- results of our science to become commercialized.
Burnham Institute placement in the spectrum of medical research and solutions to the medical therapies.
Fintan Walton:
So when we look at medical research and when we look at the solutions to the medical condition therapies that are required where would you place the Burnham Institute in that spectrum because clearly that need, that discovery need for finding new -- new treatments is a key driver. So where would you fit the Burnham Institute within that spectrum?
Robert Zaugg:
I would say again we 're much more interested in having our science applied. We are not so much interested in doing science for science sake but realize that the science becomes valuable if it does translate into new medicines that cure disease.
Fintan Walton:
Sure, so then when it comes around to ensuring that you are placed successfully in that -- in that spectrum you -- you've already as today you've announced in the collaboration with Johnson & Johnson [PharmaDeals ID = 32187] which is again an indication of --
Robert Zaugg:
Right.
Fintan Walton:
That approach but I suppose when it comes down to the choice you 've got these various centers which are focused on particular therapy areas, when it comes down to the choices that you have to make and of the types of research that take place is that driven by the Burnham Institute itself or is it driven by the scientists who have come in to and join the Burnham Institute ?
Robert Zaugg:
A little of both so we recruit scientist that are particularly keen on seeing their science commercialize then -- and to do that in a collaborative fashion, again that's part of our mission and we feel it's incumbent on each of the scientist to come in to share that -- that mission. But at the same time the scientist's have the freedom to pursue any avenue of research that -- that interest them and for which they can get funding of course, so we are really driven by the availability of funding. And to the extent that the Federal Government is funding a particular line of research and we have expertise that addresses that interest, our scientist will pursue grants in that field.
Funding and collaborations
Fintan Walton:
Right. And you've also got recently grants as well funding some Serum [Ph] Decants, at the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine that is a funding for actual infrastructures abroad [ph]?
Robert Zaugg:
That's right. Well it's false [ph], so there is funding for research projects so it's supporting both established and new scientist in the field of stem cell research as well as infrastructure both in our own institute at the Burnham plus, for a institute Consortium. that we've created in San Diego to combine the stem cell research efforts of multiple institutions.
Fintan Walton:
Okay, so if I was a pharmaceutical company or a biotech company and I was seeking out new opportunities, probably new collaborations. What is it that Burnham Institute has that makes a proposition to approach you and to -- to seek our collaboration?
Robert Zaugg:
Well certainly a key driver in the decision of J&J for example to enter into a partnership with us was to access our screening technology. So we are among three institutions in the country that was awarded a large nearly a $100 million grant from NIH just a few months ago to fund a large effort in compounds screening is an effort to establish and identify small chemical compounds that can interact with -- with proteins involved in disease mechanisms and to modulate the activity of those proteins in a way that we -- we believe might lead to new drug discovery. So this is early stage drug discovery. It's -- it's at the fore front on finding new targets for therapies and identifying potential new drugs to treat these -- these diseases.
Burnham Institute infrastructure development and technological capabilities.
Fintan Walton:
Right, and then you have the role obviously as Vice President in Business Development for the Burnham Institute . And when you have an institute which is carrying out you know activities and research like the type that goes on in Burnham Institute one of the -- one of the key factors is to make sure that if you are going to collaborate pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies that you have the infrastructure or the -- that systems in place to ensure that there is sufficient patent protection around the activities that take place, and that there is ultimately a successful technology transfer from the institute into commerce?
Robert Zaugg:
Right.
Fintan Walton:
So what have you built? What have you got in place to give to allow the Burnham Institute to best explode it's technologies?
Robert Zaugg:
Well we have a very active intellectual property management infrastructure at the institute. We very [ph] and we rely on both our own internal legal resources as well as external resources. We have multiple advisory committees that we rely on consisting of -- of academic plus individuals as well as industry experts to advise us on these the types of technologies that we should be patenting and how we should pursue those patents. And we have advisors assisting us some identifying partners for -- for the technologies in matching -- matching them up. So for us -- for a non-profit organization we are very much like a company in the sense that we are able to develop valuable patent in technology and find suitable partners for it.
Burnham Institute's ways of measuring success.
Fintan Walton:
And you have this service in sense that the Burnham Institute is a -- as you say not a profit organization. It's carrying out essential research no doubt about that. So how do you or how can one measure the success of the Burnham Institute ? Do you do it by the number of -- of patents that are filed due to the about the number of papers that are filed or do you do it on the basis of number of collaborations that you can achieve with the pharmaceutical industry and the biotech industry?
Robert Zaugg:
Very good, well in fact we measure against all of those criteria, our scientists certainly are measured by their publication record and their -- clearly their ability to guard their grant support for their research. Their work is highly sighted by other scientist in fact Burnham ranks in the top 20 worldwide for the impact of it's research as measured by it's -- been sighted by other scientist in the similar fields. So on that basis we rank very high and we are very proud. But we are also anxious in part of our ability to translate those discoveries into commercial products. We have the number of -- there are number of drugs that are currently on the market that drive originally from research conducted by our scientist, other products have been developed by our scientist before they got to Burnhambut they've -- they come to Burnham with a strong track record in knowing how to commercialize research. So again we feel that's a very important aspect of what we do and what we wanted in going forward.
Burnham Institute focuses on collaboration
Fintan Walton:
Right, and then of course in today's economic climate things are tougher. We still have to see how much that's going to influence funding like the NIH funding [PharmaDeals ID = 25535] and so forth going into the future. So it does that mean that the Burnham Institute has to focus more on the collaboration with pharmaceutical companies that's potential way of funding the research internally?
Robert Zaugg:
Well absolutely, right. I think everybody understands that the pharmaceutical industry is be rest of the products in their pipeline there, they're reaching further back into early stage there are science to find new products and we feel very well positioned to -- to fill that need for finding products that come out of pioneering research in novel mechanisms and novel approaches.
Burnham Institute future plans and it's future milestones
Fintan Walton:
Right, a number of research institutes and also the profit organizations also look at spinning start-up companies out of their organization, is that something that you 've done or listed here in the future?
Robert Zaugg:
We have done that very successful in fact I would say we've been better able to spin companies out in the past and we 've been able to establish partnerships with large pharma. But I think in the current climate, the large pharma partnerships is much more likely to be where we go in the next year or two. The start-up climate is very poor, there is very few start-ups being funded now. The JP Morgan conference were we at this week is a testimate to the -- to the difficult environment right now for new company formation. So I think in the next year or two at least we'll be doing more-and-more large pharma partnerships.
Fintan Walton:
Right, so from your prospective looking into the future there, what what's sort of milestones would you like to see happen, let's say in the next two, three-year's at the Burnham Institute?
Robert Zaugg:
Well I think this collaboration we just signed with Johnson & Johnson is a good model this is we are focused on a particular therapeutic area, inflammatory diseases. We've which in fact is not the largest effort at Burnhamit's still a largely our cancer research organization. So we have much considerable technology available that could be partnering in a similar way, so with that this again we feel is just the first thing a series of similar transactions that we can do with large pharma, large biotech.
Fintan Walton:
Robert Zaugg, thank you very much indeed for coming on the show.
Fintan Walton:
Enjoyed it. Thanks very much.
Robert Zaugg
VP Business Development Burnham Institute for Medical Research
Dr. Zaugg, VP Business Development, is responsible for the business development activities of the Institute, including technology licensing and establishment of strategic alliances in support of the scientists in La Jolla, Santa Barbara and at Lake Nona in Orlando, Florida. Dr. Zaugg, has contributed to the successful closing of deals aggregating greater than $500 million over 20 year's in companies spanning from startup biotech environments to large pharmaceutical corporations. In recent year's, Dr. Zaugg has worked as an independent consultant, serving as Interim CEO of several California biotech companies, including DermAegis, Inc., which he also co-founded, and Optime Therapeutics. Dr. Zaugg's, prior affiliations include: General Manager of GTS Proteomics; Vice President of Business Development at Vical, Inc.; Director of Business Development at Triton (now Berlex Biosciences; Assistant Director of Technology Assessment at Sandoznow Novartis. Dr. Zauggalso held positions as Senior Scientist at Teknekron Research in McLean, VA, and served as an intern in the United States Senate as an advisor to the Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space. Dr. Zauggtrained as a postdoctoral fellow at MIT where his work on immunoglobulin biochemistry was supported by a fellowship from the prestigious Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell Cancer Foundation. He has earned degrees from UCLA (B.A.), Northwestern University (M.S., Ph.D.), and New York University (M.B.A.).
Burnham Institute for Medical Research
Burnham Institute for Medical Research, is dedicated to revealing the fundamental molecular causes of disease and devising the innovative therapies of tomorrow. Burnham is one of the fastest growing research institutes in the country with operations in California and Florida. The Institute ranks among the top 4 institutions nationally for NIH grant funding and among the top 25 organizations worldwide for its research impact. Burnham utilizes a unique, collaborative approach to medical research and has established major research programs in cancer, neurodegeneration , diabetes , infectious, and inflammatory, and childhood diseases. The Institute is known for its world-class capabilities in stem cellresearch and drug discovery technologies.