State-of-the-art video con­fer­enc­ing sys­tem aims to help re­searchers mar­ket dis­cov­er­ies

Edmonton Journal - - CITY - CLARE CLANCY cclancy@post­ twit­­clancy

A $4.5-mil­lion project un­veiled at the Univer­sity of Al­berta Wed­nes­day plans to con­nect re­searchers to their global coun­ter­parts and bring bur­geon­ing ideas into the mar­ket­place.

The Univer­sity Hos­pi­tal Foun­da­tion an­nounced that by us­ing a se­cure video con­fer­enc­ing sys­tem, dubbed JLABS POD @Al­berta, re­searchers can part­ner with ex­pert teams con­nected to the John­son & John­son In­no­va­tion net­work around the world.

The state-of-the-art sys­tem — in­clud­ing high-qual­ity video, se­cure lines and in­tu­itive cam­eras that fo­cus on the per­son speak­ing — is set up in a room in the univer­sity’s Katz Build­ing.

Re­searcher John Lewis, as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of on­col­ogy at the U of A, is plan­ning to use the JLABS sys­tem to com­mer­cial­ize prostate can­cer treat­ments. His re­search has led to two spinoff com­pa­nies that fo­cus on de­vel­op­ing a blood test to de­tect prostate can­cer as well as us­ing gene ther­apy to treat the disease.

But learn­ing how to mar­ket his ideas as an “aca­demic sci­en­tist” is chal­leng­ing, he said.

“We are trained to do amaz­ing dis­cov­ery re­search but we’re def­i­nitely not trained to cre­ate prod­ucts,” he said.

“The ben­e­fit of hav­ing the JLABS POD ... is to be able to con­nect di­rectly with folks de­vel­op­ing prod­ucts and drugs that are suc­cess­ful in clin­i­cal tri­als.”

Ed­mon­ton is host to the first re­mote site con­nected to the JLABS net­work. Larger fa­cil­i­ties are based in a cities such as San Diego, Hous­ton and Shang­hai.

The video con­fer­enc­ing sys­tem is a far cry from Skype be­cause it in­volves men­tor­ship op­por­tu­ni­ties with ex­perts around the world, Lewis said.

“Part of it is spon­ta­neous meet­ings on the net­work,” he said.

“But JLABS has a for­mal men­tor­ship pro­gram. They bring in ven­ture cap­i­tal fun­ders ... reg­u­la­tory ex­perts, spinoff com­pany men­tors.”

The pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment con­trib­uted $2.1 mil­lion to the project’s over­all bud­get. Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment and Trade Minister Deron Bilous said re­searchers can strug­gle to com­mer­cial­ize their patented ideas.

“What’s exciting is the re­search go­ing on in the province, we have some of the top minds in the world. This is another step to putting Al­berta on the world map.”

The an­nounce­ment fol­lowed a panel dis­cus­sion about the health­sciences in­dus­try in Ed­mon­ton.

Mayor Don Ive­son said the city is well-po­si­tioned to act as a bridge for re­searchers and in­dus­try lead­ers around the world.

“Our ap­proach to in­no­va­tion is very col­lab­o­ra­tive,” he said, tout­ing the ben­e­fits of “non-tra­di­tional part­ner­ships.”

“I’m just the con­vener but it’s a hell of a time to be con­ven­ing.”


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