Published February 8, 2007

Infectious Disease and MicroRX

On February 8, 2007, Colorado State University unveiled MicroRX, a first-of-its-kind enterprise to speed the transition of life-saving research on infectious diseases from the academic world into the global marketplace.

MicroRX is just the first of the university's "Superclusters" - alliances of academic researchers, economists and business experts designed to encourage collaboration and bridge the vastly different worlds of business and academia. Colorado State today also announced its Superclusters acceleration research-to-market model, which the university began developing in 2004.

"University research scientists often try to double as entrepreneurs to transfer their discoveries into useful products and medical remedies," said Larry Edward Penley, Colorado State University president and co-creator of the Superclusters model. "Our Superclusters model encourages their direct collaboration with industry experts, enabling them to focus on what they do best - innovation and research into the great global challenges - and taking advantage of the corporate drive to market for that research for the benefit of the public."

Focus on strengths and potential

"What we're looking for in industry is transparency and getting some of the bureaucracy out of the way so we can have fast turnaround times and a true sense of cooperation. If the Supercluster concept as planned means more open communication and collaboration between industry and academia, it has a good chance of moving products from the research bench to the market in an accelerated fashion."
-Claude Piché
Vice president for clinical development and regulatory affairs PR Pharmaceuticals Inc., Fort Collins

Colorado State Superclusters will focus on research areas where the university has demonstrated international prominence, and where a potential for growth is evident. MicroRX, the business arm of the first Supercluster to launch, is a private, non-profit entity focused on infectious disease and biomedical research and development.

"MicroRx will translate groundbreaking scientific research from Colorado State, so that public-health solutions are developed faster for the people who need them," said Tony Frank, senior vice president and provost, who also is a co-creator of the Superclusters Model. "Our primary goal is to expeditiously commercialize intellectual property for society's benefit."

Many research universities have "technology transfer" programs, which guide scientists through the process of patenting and other complexities encountered in delivering discoveries to the global market. Colorado State's Superclusters model is unique in its multidisciplinary structure, enabling groundbreaking research to move to market more quickly by mimicking business practices.

Moving research to market

"Our Superclusters will look and act like a business and will be managed by people who have been successful leaders in the for-profit sector," Penley added.

Business leaders in the biomedical field have welcomed the Superclusters model, which will make accessing new research and technology more streamlined.

"MicroRX, with Dr. Barry Beaty at its scientific helm, will speed the transfer of innovative discoveries to organizations like InViragen," said Dan Stinchcomb, InViragen's chief executive officer. "These entities will provide the expertise and resources required to develop needed products to improve global public health."

"I'm honored to spearhead this project of collaboration, which will deliver 'real-world' solutions based on pioneering scientific discovery," said Beaty, who will serve as the MicroRX chief scientific officer. Beaty is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and is a Colorado State University Distinguished Professor in Arthropod-borne infectious diseases such as West Nile virus. "We'll develop medical interventions to save and improve lives faster and with more precision to fill gaps in current medicine."

Growth in the Superclusters

Colorado State will select additional Superclusters based on a competitive proposal process, in research areas including cancer, environmental sciences, alternative energy and agriculture.

Future choices, similar to the current MicroRX Supercluster, will be guided by the University's strengths, global challenges and interest in increasing economic prosperity and quality of life.

MicroRX and all future Superclusters will be governed by a new not-for-profit entity called Colorado State University Ventures. This business enterprise is a subsidiary corporation of the existing Colorado State University Research Foundation, or CSURF, a private, non-profit foundation that aids the university in overall research and educational efforts.

"The Superclusters enterprise will allow Colorado State University to more than double the number of inventions and startups resulting from all scientific findings in the next five years under this new economic development model," said Mark Wdowik, chief executive officer of CSU Ventures.