Children's Hospital Boston: Erik Halvorsen on translating their world renowned clinical innovation excellence into new products.




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Video title: Children's Hospital Boston: Erik Halvorsen on translating their world renowned clinical innovation excellence into new products.
Released on: November 09, 2011. © PharmaTelevision Ltd
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In this episode of PharmaTelevision News Review, Fintan Walton talks to Erik Halvorsen, Director of Technology and Business Development of Children's Hospital Boston.
Mission and focus of Technology Innovation Development Office
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to PharmaTelevision News Review here at BioPharm America in Boston, in September 2011. On this show I have Erik Halvorsen, who is Executive Director of Technology and Business Development at the Children's Hospital in Boston, welcome.
Erik Halvorsen:
Thank you very much for having me.
Fintan Walton:
The Children's Hospital here in Boston is world recognized as a great hospital for children but also equally for it's innovation, your role in as Executive Director of the Technology Innovation Development Office in the hospital is really an important role, because it's part of that is to commercialize some of that great innovation that comes from within the hospital, could you just tell us a little bit about TIDO which is the your office basically and how that works?
Erik Halvorsen:
Sure absolutely, so I joined Children's Hospital about three and a half years ago as a Director of Technology in Business Development, at the time the office that I took over and managed was called the Intellectual Property Office which you know told you a little bit about the narrowness of what they were focused on and again the mission was a good one it was to sort of support the research and translate that research into new product and they actually had a very long history and have done a great job of that, but what we were seeing was that you know there was a lot of changes happening in the marketplace and in industry over the last 10-years or so and you couldn't just be patent focused in terms of supporting that mission and again so we had a sort of a simple mission which is translate the research in clinical innovation excellence of Children's Hospital Boston which is world renowned translate that into new products that can benefit our patients and the public at large and it's a simple mission statement, but certainly a very complex process. And so when I came into Children's Hospital three and a half years ago we were focused on how do we reshape this office to meet the new demands we have of supporting that mission, patents are certainly still the central part of what we do, we had a core sort of tech what you'll call a tech transfer office which includes people with advanced degrees in life sciences, and engineering, and with MBA's and business backgrounds as well that review that research evaluate it both on it's novelty, it's patent ability, understanding the market and what is ultimately the product and the path to get there. So we have that group at our sort of at our centre, but in addition to that we've created some additional functionality to really kind of support it and I think that's some of the novelty of Children's Hospital and how we've approached that compared to some of the other centres, so for example we've gone about creating the business development function and at least for us what that means because that word is used in a lot of different ways for us that business development function is focused exclusively on trying to form collaborations with industry either at the basic research level, the translational level or the clinical level, because we do quite a bit of clinical research and that involves doing kind of a needs assessment on both sides so we meet with lots of different pharma companies, biotech companies, diagnostics devices what have you and say what you're working on? Where are you? What are your products in development and what do you need, because ultimately even those companies can't do everything themselves and they need something whether it's samples, or cell lines, or something that they need to partner and move things forward. And then we do our own internal assessment, what resources do we have, what are our research areas and strengths and what do we need to kind of advance those things and then we make the introductions and connections where it's appropriate rather than doing kind of a shotgun approach and see what hits, we really have a little bit more of a personal touch I think with it and it's been very effective and we can talk some more about some of those collaborations that we've set up over the last couple of years. In addition to the business development component we also have a technology development component and what that is a capital fund that we have created within the hospital, we launched it little over two-years ago we are entering our third-year right now. This is an investment fund not a typical like ROI, VC type fund but to invest in home grown innovations and technologies that have yet to be licensed we invest in them to advance the stage development and add value to them de-risking them making them more interesting and attractive to the commercial partners whether they are big pharma companies or they are early stage investors who want to form a company around those, that fund has been very successful, we've invested in the first year we invested 1.2 million in about 10 projects, last year we did about 1.35 in about another 10 projects and we are geared up to do about the same level of investment. It sounds like relatively small money for a project about $150,000 per project but you can do that definitive study and really the thing that may be your academic researchers wouldn't typically do around so preclinical talks, or add new kinds of things, prototyping a device and so we outsource that stuff it's not stuff that we typically can do or wanna do so we take advantage of the wide range of expertise itself there are different CRO's and that's we generally partner with on those projects and it's the kind of data and things that again early stage investors and other companies wanna see before they license it, and so that's another function that we have. And then in addition to that we also have the clinical trials office, and so I think the lot of people don't recognize the really the amount of clinical research that goes on at an academic medical centre like Children's Hospital where we hold over 100 IND's and we do anywhere from 50 to 70 industry sponsored clinical studies or clinical trials per year at Children's Hospital , so very active in that group. So we have sort of all of those components under the umbrella of TIDO and so from the basic to the translation or the clinical it's all sort of there and we think it's important to again support that mission of translating our research into products.
Areas of Innovation and research
Fintan Walton:
Okay, so just lets look at the what you are actually attempting to commercialize here, first of all what innovation is coming out of the Children's Hospital at the moment in Boston?
Erik Halvorsen:
I mean you name it, I mean it's a little bit of everything, we certainly recently we were ranked number one by U.S. News and World Report and what that meant in terms of pediatric hospitals and really what that meant was we were ranked number one in more specialties than any other pediatric hospital. We were ranked in the top five in all the ones that they measured and we were the only hospital measured ranked as such and so that sort of speaks to both the research and the clinical excellence at Children's and how broad it is. We are also the world's largest pediatric research institution from a dollar amount meaning our research base is $225 million last year of research money going in which spins up a number of different innovations we will receive anywhere from a 130 to 150 invention disclosures per year and so you can kind of see what that there is sort of a size of the base there and that we have to work with, now in terms of the breadth of those technologies or how they span, we see a breakdown of about 50% of those are therapeutics, 25% are diagnostics, about 12% - 12.5% roughly are devices and an increasing amount of software healthcare IT, bioinformatics quality control kinds of stuff or an application that very increasing area of development within our institution, in terms of the research areas very well known for cardiology , vascular biology, hematology neuroscience and oncology we have a tremendous expertise in stem cells, neurology and neuroscience and so we have there is innovations and discoveries are spanning a great wide range.
What differentiates Children's Hospital colloborative research deals from other not-for-profit organisations?
Fintan Walton:
Looking at your function and you mentioned or wended some of the detail about the scope of what you do now I suppose what you did several years ago, you know clearly in the end what you doing is to take innovation making it I suppose collaborative ready or partnering ready with the appropriate companies out there whether they are other biotechnology companies or other pharmaceutical companies, often people discuss the issues of trying to deal with a not-for-profit organization and doing collaborative research what is it are you truly differentiated from other not-for-profit organizations and how would you defend what you actually do in terms of protecting the innovation that you are creating?
Erik Halvorsen:
Yes, I mean the easy answer would be to say that we are very different than all the other academic medical centres and non-profits out there, but that would be a little two self-serving I think in it. I mean you know we've what we've I think the knock over the years has been and I have heard people and industry say there you don't know how it works in the real world thinking that the academicians and the people who work in those institutions are behind in these sailors and don't get out very often I guess and I think there has been some negative truth to that, I think what one of the things we've done is we've certainly we've hired people from industry who have industry experience you've been whether on the research side or the business development side I mean that's sort of an easy part of it, but in addition to that that's not sort of the only fix your people can be internally and get out and figure out what's going on there and that's just a dialogue with people within those companies, so that you can be accused of not knowing how it works in the world.
Fintan Walton:
So it's the business development function is to really making it bringing you closer to industry?
Erik Halvorsen:
Absolutely, and you really have to understand I mean those companies are under different kinds of pressures too than we are and understanding what they are, what their goals are, and what's driving the technologies that they are developing, and the types of deals they are doing, what stage of development and what indications understanding that is hugely important and what I tell to companies is share that information with me and I won't bother you with a bunch of crap that you are not interested in looking at anyway and then when I do show you something that' seem to be you know in your sweet spot whether it's an indication or stage of development even if you pass on it tell me why, you know tell me it's too early or this that or the other, tell me what the data is you'd wanna see and then because now we have the ability to do those things through our tech, that fund and other things we can advance those and we'll come back to you again and that dialogue has been very, very successful over the last few years.
Deal with Pfizer
Fintan Walton:
Okay Erik, and give us some examples of the type of collaborations that you are doing, type of companies you are working with, which ones are your current favorites?
Erik Halvorsen:
My current favorites.
Fintan Walton:
You like all of them I suppose?
Erik Halvorsen:
Yes, well you know not to leave out anybody, but currently we just most recently executed a deal with Pfizer as part of their CTI initiative, and I think it's interesting and I think I give them a lot of credit for really kind a thinking outside the box and doing something sort of academic friendly or non-profit friendly they could talk about their own reasons for that why they are actually looking at earlier, earlier stage stuff, why they're willing to partner with academic medical centres, I mean I think the crux with some other things that we were just talking about they need things like tissue samples well annotated tissue samples tied to medical records and we have those kinds of things. They are interested in things like orphan disease now which they were in before and places like Children's Hospital heavily enriched in orphan diseases and patients, and samples associated with that. So we have something that they need which is first and foremost, we also have the ability to go from an early stage into the clinic and well we have the clinicians we have the clinic trials so if we can partner with them to get things to that stage we can partner at their early and the translation and then we can do the clinical trials potentially on those things and so you are seeing Pfizer through the CTI partnering with a number of different institutions who can fill that need, and I think in terms of the contract and the structure and IP things, and publication stuff I give them credit that's actually fairly or a very academic friendly as far as those things go which have traditionally been some of the hurdles that block academic institutions from being able to work with companies like that.
Fintan Walton:
But have you seen the pharmaceutical companies themselves respond, because as you said companies like Pfizer need to get access to earlier stage so it's not just that you have to change but also the pharmaceutical companies themselves have to change?
Erik Halvorsen:
Well I have, I mean this is a huge sign for them to be able to come back and again whether it's that they've sort of run out of deals and companies that they can buy, or M&A, or option deals which I am sure they haven't run out of that, but they need something else and that's what this is and innovation in that research space isn't stopping in those institutions, you are seeing other institutions I don't wanna just single out Pfizer you are seeing places like Sanofi, and GSK and others who are also adopting a little bit of this model and one of the hallmarks of this model is partnering early but rather than just focusing on, okay we wanna screen some cell lines or anything like that the project is actually scooped all the way out through a Phase I trial, so you could be a year from an IND in a Phase I, you could be five-years but either way when projects are selected they are scooped out through a Phase I that resonates very well with pediatricians and I mean the pediatric researchers and clinicians that I work with, because they are constantly seeing things that there is not a good enough drug for, there is not a good enough treatment for and all they care about is getting something better, I mean yes you have to start in the cell line and you move to the animal model but they love the fact that there is a company who is willing to partner with them and talk to them about how do we get it together all the way through into a Phase I clinical trial and that includes setting up a joint steering committee with equal membership from the academic institution with the company reviewing data, setting up project plans and reviewing it as it goes along the way and I think you are seeing some of that, some of that new model is being adopted by some of the other companies as well, it's exciting.
Scope of colloboration with smaller companies
Fintan Walton:
And you mentioned large companies what about smaller biotech companies are there, is there scope for collaboration there?
Erik Halvorsen:
I mean the smaller companies don't have necessarily the all of the resources to be able to do something on that scale that Pfizer and some of the others do. So what you are still seeing from them is a little bit more narrowed focused project again access to particular samples is hugely important to lot of these companies big or small and you are seeing a little bit more focused one off project, screen these cells or we'll give you some compounds and you test it or you have a great animal model and we'll partner on that level, so you are seeing a little bit narrow in scope, but I think no shortage of those I think increasingly so because again for them there you are seeing in that area of smaller companies right they are trying to minimize their infrastructure so by doing that they are either outsourcing some of that early R&D, or to CRO's, or outsourcing or partnering with academic medical centres, so again our goal is to position ourselves as a partner of choice for those opportunities.
Children's Hospital perspective: Spin-out of companies
Fintan Walton:
And what about innovation that can be spun out as separate companies, what's the activity there from your company's perspective?
Erik Halvorsen:
Sure, I mean I think Children's has, we've probably on spun out are nearly 40 companies since the mid 80's out of Children's Hospital , and I don't know if that's a big number or smaller number depending on going from MIT it's probably not a big number, but for a for a Children's pediatric institution it feels about right I guess, so we are still seeing a relatively good amount of activity in that we are probably doing anywhere from two to five per year and they could range from 500K kind of small Series A about 20 million and so it's more about when is the time right to do that and start a company and of course there is always the dreaded conflict of interest specter looming over, because you wanna be able to separate the commercial work from beyond going academic work and but we manage those things and it's a very useful vehicle to advance things.
Fintan Walton:
Right, and not always the suitable as well?
Erik Halvorsen:
Not always.
Future vision
Fintan Walton:
I mean you having a record of great number of spin-outs doesn't necessarily mean a great success story as each one is important and each one is precious obviously, so where do you go with your organization you've got TIDO which is what you've developed now, what can we expect coming out of the Children's Hospital and particularly through your division going into the future?
Erik Halvorsen:
Yes, I mean it is an important part of how why and how we set up TIDO was to be prepared to deal with changes in the marketplace and in the industry to be sort of nimble enough to deal with those, but also the kind of deal with this broad range of different innovations, and inventions, and discoveries, and just wild wacky ideas that were coming up from the medical centre that required support in various ways that were again not just the patent part of it, so we're I am very confident that we're sort of set up to deal with it now in terms of what are some of the new big initiatives or discoveries that are gonna come out, one of the things that we are focused on and will have sort of more public information about those soon is an initiative inclined to gene partnership and this is really geared towards increasing the amount of genetic information that we are collecting from on a consented basis from our patients moving towards doing full genome sequencing on those and then tying that genetic information to the medical record in ways that you using very robust informatics tools can began making genotype"phenotype association which will lead to new research discoveries, lead to new treatments, lead to new diagnostics where lucky bit that we have an institution who is investing heavily in that and we are also sort of fortunate to be where we are because we have a very enriched population of patients with complex genetic disease that will lend itself to these kinds of discoveries. So this is a huge initiative that I think is going to blow people away and create a lot of opportunities for partnership both with other academics centres as well as corporate partners.
Measurement of success
Fintan Walton:
How do you measure your own success? What would you what parameters would you look for, it's a difficult question I know but it's how when do you know that you are succeeding and what clear indicators would you use to say well actually we are now this is being worth, this is I mean this is something?
Erik Halvorsen:
I am sitting with you so obviously that has to be a measure of success.
Fintan Walton:
Besides that that's one measure I would accept that, but may be there are some more tangible on this?
Erik Halvorsen:
Yes, I mean I think that for me we are looking at it I don't say things like we are gonna double our revenue or triple our revenue I mean I don't use those obviously other people may use that to measure me or other institutions. My measure of success is are we increasing the products on the market, are we generating new products that can benefit our patients now if you back track from there if I generate more products it's going to generate more revenue, in order to generate more products I have to do more deals, in order to do more deals you have to have the good research space, you have to have the good partnerships and collaborations with companies. So there, I mean in someways it's very similar for me it's measuring the products on the market, but you have to take a longer-term view of that right, because diagnostics and devices what forded a seven-years on making up the numbers, but and then therapeutics could be 10 plus years, so you have to take a long-term view of it now I think again I am lucky that Children's Hospital has been around for a long time and they've been in the innovation business and turning research into products for a long time so they get it, they are not looking for short-term wins or short-term successes.
Fintan Walton:
But one indicator could be the reduced number of patients that you hold in the hospital?
Erik Halvorsen:
For sure, I mean I think it's completely separate from my day job I guess in terms of that kind of things there is ton of innovations about how do we reduce stay, how do we reduce cost, how do we improve outcomes and there is a ton of innovations and discoveries that are in that round too that first and foremost it's about implementing those at Children's Hospital , but they have applicability on much more broad way outside of our walls.
Fintan Walton:
Okay. Well Erik Halvorsen, thank you very much indeed for coming on the show.
Erik Halvorsen:
Thank you very much for having me, it's just great.
Fintan Walton
Dr Fintan Walton is the Founder and CEO of PharmaVentures . After completing his doctoral research on the genetics of cell proliferation at the University of Michigan(US)and Trinity College (Dublin, Ireland), Dr Walton gained broad commercial experience in biotechnology in management positions at Bass and Celltech plc (1982-1992).
Erik Halvorsen
President
Erik Halvorsen became the Director of Technology and Business Development for Children's Hospital Boston in September of 2007. He oversees and manages the Technology and Innovation Development Office (TIDO) responsible for translating Children's renowned laboratory and clinical research into devices, therapeutics, diagnostics, and informatics products that can benefit patients around the world. With approximately $225 million in annual sponsored research funding and more than 800,000 square feet of state-of-the-art laboratory space, Children's Hospital Boston is home to the world's largest and most active research enterprise at a pediatric center, disclosing more than 120 inventions per year to TIDO. Over the course of 2008 and 2009, Erik restructured the office's resources and expertise to maximally support the hospital's research and advance the stage of development of its innovations. The result was a shift away from the "tech transfer" model and towards a product development model through the creation of a Business Development function and Technology Development Fund. These additional resources along with the Patents & Licensing Group and Clinical Trials Office all effectively support the translation of research and innovation at Children's Hospital Boston into new products that can benefit our patients and the public. Prior to joining Children's Hospital Boston , Erik was the Director of Business Development at Harvard University's Office of Technology Development. He joined Harvard in 2002 where he was primarily responsible for the patenting and licensing of technology arising from the departments of Molecular & Cellular Biology and Chemistry & Chemical Biology including early stage therapeutics, stem cells, targets and drug discovery technology. In 2006, Erik also became the first Director of Business Development for the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI). There he developed a comprehensive stem cell intellectual property (IP) policy, ratified and enacted by HSCI affiliated institutions, which allowed for centralization of stem cell IP and returned a portion of license revenue to fund additional stem cell research. His Ph.D. in Neuropharmacology focused on elucidating apoptotic and anti-apoptotic intracellular signaling pathways activated in Parkinson's disease and identifying potential therapeutic targets to slow or inhibit neuronal cell death and has authored and co-authored several peer reviewed papers. Erik also holds an M.S. from the Medical College of Virginia and a B.A. from the University of Virginia.
PharmaVentures
PharmaVentures is a corporate finance and transactions advisory firm that has served hundreds of clients worldwide in relation to their strategic deal making in the pharmaceutical, life science and healthcare sectors. Our key offerings include: Transactions / deal negotiations; Product / technology valuations; Deal term advice; Due diligence & expert reports; Strategy formulation; Alliance management; and Expert opinion for litigation/arbitration cases. PharmaVentures provides the global expertise to ensure our clients generate the highest possible return on investment from all their deal making activities. We have experience of all therapeutic areas and can offer advice on both product and technology commercialisation.
Children's Hospital Boston
Children's Hospital Boston is an elder in the world of pediatric care. The 400-bed hospital offers acute health care and specialty services for children from birth to age 21. It is also Harvard Medical School's main teaching hospital for children's health care and the world's largest pediatric research center. Its John F. Enders Pediatric Research facility provides research for the treatment of childhood diseases. Specialty services include cardiovascular surgery, digestive care , neurology , oncology , ophthalmology , and fetal care . The not-for-profit hospital was founded in 1869.