MCG's Azziz calls for state-funded effort to spur biomedical industry

ATLANTA -- Georgia's biomedical industry won't meet its potential without a state-funded program to link university innovations with the state's businesses, Medical College of Georgia President Ricardo Azziz said today.
He made his comments during the ninth annual Georgia Bio Summit, an all-day conference of researchers and businesses, law firms, personnel-recruiting firms and investment banks.
Existing efforts to bring together industry and academic researchers, like the Bio Summit and the Georgia Research Alliance, have limited success, Azziz said, because they aren't ongoing. Instead, they provide opportunities for the two groups to meet, but what is needed is the funding and staff to keep them working together.
He recommended that the new entity represent all of the research universities in the state, such as MCG, the University of Georgia and even the private schools like Emory University. Each of those schools independently had booths at Thursday's conference.
"A number of entities in Georgia have been promoting some of these initiatives, but the funding has been relatively inadequate," he said.
Getting there requires showing that universities are not just schools but also the source of cutting-edge developments, most of which would never be discovered in the private sector, he said.
"That simple concept is something that the vast majority of the public, and often our legislators and our government officials, do not always fully grasp," he said.
The conference exhibit hall may have illustrated his point. Dozens of organizations seemed to be competing to impress the executives of drug and medical-device makers.
For example, the MCG booth showcased its 100 or so innovations from recent years that school officials think have market potential. They're hoping someone from a Georgia drug company spots one for commercial development, such as an oral vaccine for Alzheimer's Disease.
Coming to conferences may be the only way presently to meet the right people.
"Everything is the connection. You're not going to get in the door if you cold call them or email them," said David Klick, a representative of MCG's Office of Technology Transfer & Economic Development.
Nearby, the University of Georgia Bioexpression & Fermentation Center was looking for customers as well as prospective students.
"It's just reconnecting and reconnecting with these people," said Timothy Davies, the center's director.
The center's specialized vats offer companies and researchers a place to develop processes for cell-based compounds like bio-fuels. And it is beginning to offer graduate degrees in biomanufacturing to prepare students for the companies when they take the discoveries to mass production, according to Davies.


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