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