D&I Launchpad Studies Formation of Academic-Private Partnerships During COVID19

In late 2019, a report from the Brookings Institution named Madison, Wisconsin, as one of the top 35 metro areas with the potential to become America’s next top innovation hubs. That report included recommendations on how Congress could support the growth of such hubs, such as providing funding to support university research, business development, workforce development, regional planning and infrastructure.

With the help of a grant from the University of Wisconsin Tommy G Thompson Center on Public Leadership (TGTC), UW ICTR and UW Health responded with a project to assess the health of the biohealth industry in Wisconsin. Allan Brasier, ICTR Executive Director, notes,

Both ICTR and UW Health are vitally concerned with how to expand the local capacity for moving basic discovery science and clinical studies towards adoption by the health care industry and translation into improved public health. This collaboration was designed to go directly to Wisconsin stakeholders and learn from them.

The initial high-level project scope called for a full day symposium consisting mainly of expert-moderated panel discussions, followed by a more focused Think Tank event to discover meaningful information about barriers to biohealth start-ups and what can be done by policy makers and industry champions.

When the COVID-19 pandemic halted face-to-face gatherings at UW, the ICTR Dissemination & Implementation Launchpad team joined the effort and began a case study of collaborations and relationship building during the crisis. Participants from academic institutions, private industry, hospitals and advocacy groups were interviewed using qualitative methods.

ICTR and UW Health also reached out to BioForward, a Wisconsin biohealth industry association that was actively assisting industry during the crisis. They were hosting their annual meeting, the Wisconsin Biohealth Summit, as a virtual event over three days in September and October, and the planning team felt that this was perfect opportunity to present the D&I study results and have a panel discussion on the topic. Jane Mahoney, ICTR D&I Launchpad Director and Professor of Medicine, comments,

We found that new academic industry relationships and collaborations continued to be formed even as the pandemic worsened. Our Wisconsin biohealth community has been motivated to help out in a variety of ways that were demonstrably effective.

Not surprising, best practices and recommendations arising from our study of relationship building the pandemic can also be used to build long-term sustainability when the crisis is over. Many of our conclusions are widely applicable for supporting academic private partnerships.

Aside from pandemic-specific practices, study recommendations include engaging with academic tech-transfer offices to streamline working with university intellectual property; connecting proactively with global companies with a local presence to take advantage of their expertise; developing private-public funding mechanisms to support emerging biohealth companies; and creating an ongoing council to align stakeholders to address healthcare needs during crisis and otherwise.

Coming Soon: Link to a video of the panel discussion