Two National Cancer Institute projects have been recognized with national awards from the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer (FLC). The winners will be recognized at the group’s National Meeting in Portland Oregon April 28-30. The FLC is a Congressionally mandated organization that educates, promotes, and facilitates federal technology transfer. Learn more about NCI’s awards below:
Award 1: “New, First-in-class Immunotherapy, for Treatment of Recurrent, Metastatic Cervical Cancer”
Winner of 2020 Excellence in Technology Transfer Award
This award recognizes employees of FLC member laboratories and non-laboratory staff who have accomplished outstanding work in the process of transferring federally developed technology.
Early in his career Steven Rosenberg, M.D., Ph.D., observed a patient with terminal cancer whose disease spontaneously disappeared and theorized it had something to do with the patient’s immune system. He and other researchers pursued this hypothesis for decades despite a skeptical scientific community. Today, Rosenberg’s pioneering research in cancer immunotherapy and individually designed “personalized” medicine is at the forefront of innovation, providing hope and cures for cancer patients who have exhausted all other treatments.
In 2011, NCI and Iovance Biotherapeutics entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) for the development of adoptive cell therapy (ACT) using tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL). Technology licenses between NCI and Iovance were established to grant Iovance rights to the NIH’s TIL patent estate. Eight years later, Iovance is conducting two pivotal multi-center trials of TIL technology in advanced cervical cancer and metastatic melanoma and has achieved breakthrough and fast track designations from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in these indications respectively. These are cancers for which patients have exhausted all other means of treatment and have no options left.
Successes like the NCI-Iovance collaboration spur increases in medical research spending and investment. In May 2019, Iovance announced initiation of construction of a 136,000 square foot TIL manufacturing plant in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The next-generation facility aims to scale up TIL manufacturing and reduce the time and cost to produce the cells, which has been a major barrier for this type of treatment. The fact that immunotherapy treatments have the potential to provide cancer patients with improved quality of life with fewer, less severe side-effects will continue to attract investment and increase the development of new, lifesaving medical technologies.
NCI, Iovance and its collaborators now have now initiated additional TIL trials in other solid tumors. This effective partnership has transferred an unprecedented immunotherapy treatment from a federal lab to the private sector advanced it to late-stage clinical development. This innovative treatment has the potential to help thousands of patients a year with deadly and previously untreatable forms of cancer.
NCI Scientific Team
Steven A. Rosenberg, M.D., Ph.D., chief, NCI Surgery Branch
Christian Hinrichs, M.D., Investigator, NCI Experimental Transplantation and Immunotherapy Branch
Aida Cremesti, Ph.D., Senior Technology Transfer Manager (TTM), NCI TTC
Andrew Burke, Ph.D., TTM, NCI TTC
Maria Fardis, Ph.D. MBA, CEO, Iovance
Award 2: “NCI Technology Transfer Ambassadors Program: Innovative Internal and External Engagement”
Winner of 2020 Technology Transfer Innovation Award
This award recognizes federal laboratories that successfully implemented innovative or unconventional technology transfer approaches that resulted in a significant increase in technology transfer (T2) activities. This is a new FLC award category.
In September 2016, to better engage and educate the scientific community, the NCI TTC launched the first federal Technology Transfer Ambassadors Program (TTAP). The program has significantly impacted technology transfer efforts across the NCI and is now being offered and adopted across the NIH.
The TTAP is the first formal technology transfer training and mentoring program open to NIH post-doctoral scientists (post-docs) seeking professional development in invention analysis, commercialization, and entrepreneurship. The one-year program augments each post-doc’s current research activities and boosts the impact on the technology transfer environment at NIH.
While TTAP has received positive feedback and results since first implemented in 2016, TTAP’s strength directly stems from efforts to continuously enhance the program. In 2019, program leads included a new “Technology Transfer Boot Camp,” a series of intensive hands-on training sessions to equip post-doc participants with skills immediately applicable to their training while they worked directly with TTC managers. Additionally, the leads developed a “Perfecting Your Pitch” workshop and “Pitch Practice” sessions for post-doc participants to learn how to effectively communicate the value propositions of technologies to business audiences. Since participating in TTAP, several post-doc participants have transitioned their careers into technology transfer and many other related professions.
TTAP has and continues to strive toward creating a lab-to-market mindset across NIH Institutes. In some labs, a paradigm shift has investigators focusing research efforts on outcomes with more of an eye to commercialization. The result is a more entrepreneurial culture, stronger connections between technology transfer and the scientific community, and enhanced efficiency of NIH technology transfer efforts for commercialization.
Successful outcomes include multiple invention disclosures and transactional agreements initiated by post-doc participants, dozens of analyses and presentations informing NIH patent investment decisions, improved marketing campaigns for NIH technologies, and an increase in creative TT engagement with scientists.
Winners: Technology Transfer Ambassador Team Leads, NCI TTC:
Laura Prestia, Ph.D., Communications & Strategic Initiatives Manager
Rose Freel Ph.D., Senior Technology Transfer Manager (TTM)
Taryn Dick Ph.D., M.B.A., TTM
Abritee Dhal Ph.D., TTM
More information about TTAP can be found at: https://techtransfer.cancer.gov/aboutttc/ambassadors