Harvard Latest Top Business School To Commercialize Science Research After $20M Donation

HBS to advance business of precision medicine

The Kraft family is to donate $20 million to Harvard Business School to support research that advances the field of precision medicine — the latest example of business schools aiding the fight to commercialize innovation in sciences.

Harvard will collaborate with the Broad Institute, a pioneer in precision medicine, and other organizations in Boston to find ways to accelerate breakthroughs and advance the commercialization of the field.

The pledge from the Kraft Family Foundation — which is led by Harvard MBA alumnus Robert Kraft — is part of Harvard University’s $6.5 billion fundraising campaign.

It may lead to lead to curricula for MBA and executive education courses, and mentorship and student fellowship programs designed to catalyze commercialization of ideas.

Precision medicine allows scientists and physicians to use genomic information to understand a disease and to precisely diagnose and develop tailored treatments. But the growth of the industry is hampered by gaps that exist between scientific discoveries and the commercialization of medical solutions.

“At heart, many of the challenges facing the advancement of precision medicine today are business challenges,” said Nitin Nohria, Harvard Business School dean.

The rising cost of clinical trials and a lack of collaboration among scientists, the pharmaceutical industry and investors also hinder growth.

This is a problem that many top business schools are trying to solve — across fields.

University of Dayton’s business school in September announced that it would form a new corporation focused on helping commercialize technology with UD’s schools of engineering and law.

Such “spin-out” companies have enjoyed success. North American universities, hospitals and research institutions formed 914 start-up companies last year alone, up by 12% on 2013, according to AUM, the technology transfer association formed by more than 300 universities.

According to data from Spinouts UK, which tracks early-stage research ventures from leading UK universities, 14 British spin-out companies have floated on the stock market over the past three years.

“We team students up with high-technology spin out companies,” said Malcolm Kirkup, professorial director of MBA programs at University of Edinburgh Business School, which draws on its base university’s historic strength in medical research. “Business schools in future need to do much more of that linking across faculties and colleges,” he added.

University of Oxford earlier this year launched a £300 million joint venture with Isis Innovation to develop research from the university’s mathematical, physical, life sciences and medical sciences divisions, and turn ideas into companies.

Imperial Innovations, the technology transfer company of Imperial College London, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange, has raised about £200 million from investors to accelerate research start-ups.

The £50 million Cambridge Innovation Capital fund similarly channels funding into research ventures from the top UK university.

Joanna Mills, deputy director for Cambridge Judge Business School's Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning, said that Judge is at “the heart” of this entrepreneurial scene.

“We get an ecosystem developing of alumni coming through the business school and university; a lot of those are entrepreneurs and they spin out ideas into start-ups,” she said. 

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