New network would unite city's medical community
By Adela Talbot
September 05, 2013
Excitement is growing among partners in the Medical Innovation and Commercialization Network after the venture received encouragement from a city council committee last month to forge ahead with the development of a governance structure.
The network plans to bring together the region’s entire medical community to bridge the gap between Western and London, as well as boost the local economy.
“There’s a lot of work to be done on that front,” Michael Strong, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry dean, said of the next steps to be taken in developing a governance structure for the network. “The network itself is really quite unique in that it has all the hospitals, foundations and partners going together in the same direction.”
He noted the development of a governance structure, while pressing on the agenda, will need to reflect the network’s multifaceted formation.
The plan, which calls for the city pitching in $10 million and Western investing $20 million, would create a Medical Innovation and Commercialization Network, a partnership between the city, the university’s medical school, London Health Sciences Centre and St. Joseph’s Health Care and their foundations, as well as the Lawson Health Research Institute.
The idea is to leverage initial funding for further monies, after which the construction of a headquarters for the network near Western’s Discovery Park will take place. The idea is to develop, test and market medical devices through the network, drawing on the strengths of those in London’s medical community.
In an ideal scenario, Western researchers would develop an idea for a device to be prototyped by the network. The device would be clinically tested at local hospitals, patented through WORLDiscoveries (the business development arm of London’s research network) and licensed to a local company that would market the device.
The city council’s Investment and Economic Prosperity Committee praised the idea in July, touting it as a way to rebrand the city by harvesting its strength in the medical sector and chart its economic growth by creating jobs and attracting the best in the medical industry.
“The goal is, over a couple of months, to have a governance model and then we can put together a business plan,” said Harvey Filger, London’s director of Corporate Investments & Partnerships. “What it comes down to is what our proposal is. With a good business plan, we could leverage a fair amount of money.
“When I first came (to London), this was a silo city where no one seemed to want to work together. But with this (network), everyone’s working together and I think this is great.”
Over the next month or so, the hope is to have a governance structure in place, Filger said, noting the network will then have time to develop a solid business plan that will, together with the seed funding, be propped up in an application for more funding from the federal government.
“We have enough time to do it right, so let’s do it right, get it right the first time,” he said.
Both Strong and Filger agreed the network would harvest already existing strengths in the region’s medical sector, with great potential for job growth and economic development, in addition to bolstering and drawing from an already strong reputation of medical research.
“We are very good at the development of nascent idea, like the next generation of antibiotics, joint replacements,” Strong said, noting the idea’s development and engineering capacity is likewise present in the region.
“We have the capacity to do the pre-clinical work and take that across to our hospital partners and look at clinical trials to evaluate. What this (network) does is give us the platform on which to do that.”
The investment of talent – potentially the biggest investment of all – is the source of Western’s contribution, Strong noted.
“We have the right people, the right academic skills. On the university’s side of the equation is, (its) investment in this sometimes gets interpreted as being prepared to move forward with bricks and mortar. We want to be placing our investments in the people to drive these kinds of initiatives, and everything will fall into place,” he said.
“Our strength here is our people; let’s invest in that.”
Filger agreed, adding the quality of the people and parties involved will prove to be the network’s strength. And while a lot of details regarding the network’s governance, operation and business plan have yet to be nailed down, he said the unanimous confidence of its future success is two-fold.
First, the conservative projection of job growth is roughly 350 new positions, he said. But what’s most important is the future potential of similar ventures and the consequential rebranding of London that will accompany the network’s success.
“Having the concept of a research city means you should have some major area of research here; I think that’s really important, and what it does to change the image of the city,” he said.
“Its attraction and retention (potential) will change the image of the city, help the economy and there’s the buzz something like this creates. This puts the city at a different level. This is a template for other groups to come together. What can be better than that?”
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