Signing a partnership agreement are, from left, UD President Patrick Harker, Fraunhofer USA President Georg Rosenfeld and Delaware Economic Development Office Director Alan Levin.

Partnership to benefit Delaware

UD, Fraunhofer Center for Molecular Biotechnology, state announce partnership

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4:28 p.m., July 18, 2011--University of Delaware President Patrick Harker, Delaware Economic Development Office Director Alan Levin and Fraunhofer USA President Georg Rosenfeld signed a partnership agreement Thursday, July 14, that will combine the strengths of the Fraunhofer Center for Molecular Biotechnology (CMB) in applied translational research and of UD in basic research. 

Officials said they believe the partnership -- which is centered in the life sciences -- will lead to the development of innovative, interdisciplinary programs and create educational and economic benefits for the state.

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Development of any biological product, from discovery to market, takes more than a decade and hundreds of millions of dollars. Additionally, in spite of significant increases in new discoveries, the pipeline of biological products actually reaching the market has decreased. 

One of the reasons for this is the weakness of translational research that moves discoveries from university portfolios into an industry product pipeline. This partnership, among other things, provides opportunity to close the gap between scientific innovation and the commercial market.

“By translating basic discoveries into clinical and commercial applications, the combined strengths of the two institutions could lead to significant economic benefit for Delaware and the region. The discoveries that have been and will be made at these facilities can have an impact worldwide,” said Gov. Jack Markell, who was unable to attend the signing ceremony. “Our state has a well-earned reputation as a center for excellence and innovation, which this partnership furthers.”

UD has established a strong complement of life sciences core instrumentation centers. Many of these centers are located at the Delaware Biotechnology Institute, directly adjacent to CMB. These instrumentation centers include state-of-the-art facilities for bioimaging, sequencing and genotyping, proteomics, bioinformatics and others.

“Together, we are formalizing a partnership that has been growing steadily for more than a decade, Harker said. “UD and Fraunhofer will join our respective and complementary technological capabilities and scientific expertise to further our joint goals -- providing a safer, healthier nation and world, as well as jobs for the local economy, and establishing Delaware as a leader in life sciences.”

CMB is a unique institution conducting research and development in the area of plant biotechnology, utilizing newly developed and cutting-edge technologies to advance products for infectious disease and autoimmune disorders in humans. The center houses nearly 90 researchers with expertise in plant virology, molecular biology, protein engineering, protein biochemistry, immunology, vaccine development, quality assurance, quality control and regulatory expertise to guide clinical product development. 

CMB has also established advanced research facilities, including a Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) pilot plant for production of clinical grade materials, and has successfully conducted two Phase 1 clinical trials.

This six-year agreement will provide increased investment from Fraunhofer CMB’s parent organization, German-based Fraunhofer Gesellschaft. Rosenfeld said he believes that the new partnership will be beneficial to all the parties. “The partnership will provide each with access to the other’s technical know-how, expertise and facilities as well as increased opportunities to collaborate on advanced applied research projects and improved possibilities to commercialize results. This type of partnership is the model upon which the Fraunhofer organization was established and has developed throughout its history.”

Levin said the state has seen great success with its investment to date in Fraunhofer. “Through the past 10 years, CMB has moved its alternative vaccine production technology from concept through pre-clinical studies to clinical development, while adding nearly 100 high-paying, high-impact, scientific jobs to the Delaware economy. We look forward to the center’s continued growth and believe that this new, expanded partnership enhances Delaware’s competitive position for biotechnology companies.”

“This new agreement provides a solid foundation for our continuing growth,” said Vidadi Yusibov, executive director of Fraunhofer CMB. “By combining research strengths and accessing each other’s unique resources, we will be able to expand investment in interdisciplinary programs that will generate new opportunities. We expect to expand our employment by cultivating existing and recruiting new, scientific talent.”

Article by Meredith Chapman

Photo by Ambre Alexander

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