In many ways, the real importance of fundamental science is to uncover breakthroughs that can benefit the economy and our people on a national and global basis.
—Dr Michael J. Cleare, Executive Director STV
At Science and Technology Ventures (STV)—which serves to transfer inventions and innovative knowledge from Columbia University to outside organizations—measuring impact is important. But how do you measure impact?
Is it in 600 patents under management? Greater than 250 active license agreements? Over 70 startups created? More than $1.75 billion in gross revenue generated? What about other measurements—the ones that aren't quite as quantifiable? How do you measure the ability of a painter with waning eyesight to see clearly again due to XALATAN, a revolutionary glaucoma treatment? The joy of a couple who long struggled with infertility and now have a baby thanks to Serono SA's breakthrough fertility drug Gonal-F? Or, what about the gratitude of a child whose mother's life was prolonged because of the breast cancer medicine Trastuzumab?
Each of these life-enhancing products was built upon discoveries made at Columbia labs and ushered into industry by the technology transfer office. While these products have surely made money for the University, the immeasurable impact these innovations have had on the public good is what STV uses as its key benchmark for success.
To see examples of Columbia technologies in action, select from the following:
Download STV Success Stories: New Inventions / New Discoveries (PDF)
Health Sciences—Patent Families
Cotransformation: Helping pharmaceutical companies to manufacture products
This scientific work, carried out by Columbia's Nobel Prize winning scientist Richard Axel and two colleagues, involves methods of inserting genes into the DNA of a cell. The discovery—known as "cotransformation"——has made it possible to turn cells into factories capable of producing a specific protein, allowing pharmaceutical companies to use human proteins rather than chemicals as the basis of drugs. Columbia has licensed these methods to more than thirty companies. Products developed using the cotransformation process have yielded billions of dollars in sales and have vastly improved the quality of hundreds of thousands of lives. Many products rely on Dr Axel's work, including Biogen Idec's Avonex® (interferon beta 1a) drug product for treatment for multiple sclerosis and Genzyme 's Cerezyme for Gaucher's disease.
Latanoprost: A revolutionary glaucoma treatment
Ground-breaking research conducted by Columbia University professor Laszlo Z. Bito revealed that prostaglandins, a family of chemicals produced by the body, when given in extremely small does, can lower ocular pressure—and thereby successfully treat glaucoma, a disease that plagues 2 million Americans with vision loss and causes 120,000 to go blind annually. Dr Bito's discovery led to the development of a synthetic version of the prostaglandins, Latanoprost, a synthetic prostaglandin which Pharmacia (now Pfizer) independently discovered and developed, and which is the active pharmaceutical agent in the drug XALATAN—now the number one treatment for glaucoma.
Homocysteine: Testing for cardiovascular disease
Discoveries made by Dr John Lindenbaum, the late Columbia professor and past chairman of medicine, and Drs Robert Allen and Sally Stabler, from the University of Colorado, led to the development of an assay for quantifying the presence of Homocysteine, an amino acid that in elevated concentrations can indicate an increased risk of heart disease. A number of companies, including Bayer, have licensed the technology to perform assays that have helped countless patients receive necessary cardiovascular therapies.
Antimicrobial Coatings: Protecting infections from implanted medical devices
Columbia Department of Surgery's Shanta Modak and her collaborators developed a method that utilizes antimicrobial silver sulfadiazine and chlorhexidine in a polymeric matrix to help protect patients against bacterial infections that can occur with implanted medical devices. In 1987, Columbia licensed this technology to Daltex Medical Sciences, which sublicensed it to Arrow International, which has since sold more than 400,000 central venous catheters that employ Dr Modak's invention.
Manufactured by Centocor (a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson), this advanced biologic agent, which employs Columbia's Chimeric Antibodies patent, targets specific proteins in the body's immune system to control inflammation and has helped more than 700,000 people reduce the painful and often debilitating symptoms of such diseases as psoriatic arthritis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.
This drug, manufactured by Centocor and marketed by Eli Lilly and Company, which relies on a chimeric antibody fragment to stop platelets from sticking together, is used to reduce acute blood clot complications for patients undergoing percutaneous coronary intervention to open blocked arteries of the heart. ReoPro® is a registered trademark of Eli Lilly and Company.
Produced and distributed by a global leader in the development of vaccines and antiviral therapies, palivizumab prevents a lower respiratory tract disease caused by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)—an illness that infects two-thirds of all infants during the first year and almost 100% of children by the age of two. In the US, RSV infection causes up to 125,000 hospitalizations annually.
Made by Pfizer, this once-a-day application is the number-one prescribed treatment for glaucoma—a disease that causes vision loss for 2 million Americans annually.
The technology behind Zolinza—a cancer therapy that aims to stop the growth of cancer cells by increasing the activity of some enzymes that are abnormally inactive—was developed in the laboratories of Ronald Breslow, PhD, at Columbia and Paul A. Marks, MD, at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. In 2001, Drs Breslow and Marks cofounded Aton Pharma, a privately held biopharmaceuticals company, to develop and commercialize Zolinza and other therapeutics for cancer. In February 2004, Merck—one of the world's leading research-based pharmaceutical companies—acquired Aton as a wholly owned subsidiary. Zolinza, which carries the generic name vorinostat, has recently received FDA approval for the treatment of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL), an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The therapy is also being studied for the treatment of other types of cancer, including leukemia, multiple myeloma, advanced Hodgkin's lymphoma, and solid tumors.
Engineering, Computer Science, and Arts and Sciences
This discovery, patented by Columbia professor James Im, describes a process to produce the optimal crystalline material—something that can lead to lower cost and higher performance liquid crystal displays (LCDs). Dr Im's method, called sequential lateral solidification (SLS), is based on his fundamental breakthrough about how a substance is melted and solidified. The result is that silicon-based transistors can be put on inexpensive and transparent glass or plastic substrates, instead of the silicon wafers previously used. The new material can be used to create a variety of devices from solar cells to thin film transistors for flat panel displays for computers that are built on glass or on plastic sheets. (In theory, the discovery may eventually allow for an entire computer to be put on a sheet of glass or plastic.) Top display makers, including LG. Philips LCD and Samsung have already licensed this technology. The innovation is also applicable to smart cards, image sensors, and three-dimensional integrated circuit devices.
This groundbreaking research, conducted by a team that included Dimitris Anastassiou, Columbia University professor of electrical engineering, allows the transmission of high quality video and audio over limited bandwidth. Columbia was the only academic institution involved in the development of the MPEG-2 algorithm. MPEG-2, which uses mathematical manipulations to compress and send high quality video and audio over limited bandwidth channels and decompress it for display, appears in all current forms of digital transmission and has become the international television-coding standard. The success of getting this technology from laboratory to marketplace was the result of the University's collaboration with key industry partners including Fujitsu, General Instrument, and Mitsubishi Electric. The technology, which represents a market of billions of dollars, is currently being used in high definition TV, DVD disks, video on demand, and personal computing. It will be used in all PCs and TVs of the future—products that will boast larger screens that depict tremendous detail.
System Management Arts (SMARTS)
Innovative software company SMARTS (now part of EMC) was a spin-off from Columbia's Distributed Computing and Communications (DCC) Lab. The company, the most successful IT startup from Columbia to date, was cofounded by Yechiam Yemini, professor of computer science at Columbia. SMARTS, which was launched in 1993 with Columbia-licensed technology, rapidly grew to become one of the leading companies in network fault management. With this software solution, companies can easily detect and resolve the IT infrastructure problems that affect business services. Thousands of customers worldwide, including a large number of Fortune 500 companies, use the software, which has won numerous product awards and industry recognition, including being named to the Deloitte Technology Fast 500, Inc. Magazine's Inc. 500, and PC Week Analyst's Choice Award. In 2005, information storage and management leader EMC acquired SMARTS for $260 million. Columbia University incurred licensing income of $2.2 million. SMARTS is a core piece of EMC's resource management offerings, and is being integrated into the company's product suite for advanced storage management.