Anna Grocholsky, Director of Commercialisation at the Heart Research Institute (HRI), works across the Institute and its alliance partners to identify and develop scientific discoveries at HRI that have commercial potential to make a positive impact on cardiovascular disease and help thousands of people.
With an extensive background in science, intangible assets (IP including copyright), business and law, combined with industry and university experience, Anna talks about the role of commercialisation at HRI, and how she assists researchers with commercialisation of their discoveries.
How can you help research at the bench reach the bedside?
My big mantra is that I help researchers turn their ideas into a reality that end users need or want – something that patients or clinicians will use. On a day-to-day basis, I help researchers test to see if their research or hypothesis is actually something that they should be working on, and test that it’s needed.
I help our researchers articulate what they really want to achieve at the end of the day and help outline the different commercialisation pathways available to them: what they need to get done to first validate, then second identify a viable product or service. As the project progresses, I assist them in going through those processes and understanding their options and what they’re doing.
What role do patents and IP protection play in commercialisation?
There are so many great ideas for research, so we need to identify what is viable, usable and needed, to best direct our resources. Patent searching is an important tool I use. There might be a patent that someone else holds that would immediately throw up a roadblock in commercialising our discovery. If there’s already another competing product, the researcher may need to redirect their focus, or pivot or collaborate with the company who has that existing product to improve on it.
When I review a researcher’s work, I assist them in appreciating all of their work: data, copyright material and potential patentable ideas.
Some IP can be licenced or sold to a company to develop a diagnostic tool or a new drug. We might set up a business unit within HRI. We might release something publicly under Creative Commons. Under the right terms, we could assist a researcher to start a company utilising IP created at HRI. Every case is different and exciting to work on.
How can a commercialisation strategy help researchers?
I would love each researcher to have a written strategy of what they are doing and why, even if it’s just for their own reference – basically a business model for their research. What is their publication strategy? What is their intellectual property strategy, including copyright? What is their translation commercialisation strategy? If it’s a new drug or involves ethics, have they got a regulatory strategy?
Thinking about all these points and talking to people about it can help bring to light other key questions that need answering. It could help clarify the end user, so that they can make their product more fit-for-purpose.
How else can commercialisation be progressed?
Funding is obviously a key factor in progressing commercialisation. HRI has set up a seed fund, launching in 2021, for when a researcher just needs a little bit of money to test and validate their idea to see if there’s really market interest.
Forming strategic partnerships can also be critical. Partnering with another institute or an industry player could help us get a product commercialised faster, in turn helping our community sooner.
It takes a huge amount of effort and work to commercialise something. Drawing on the experience and expertise of others, or pitching your idea to them, can really help identify what needs to be done. Like the saying “It takes a village to raise a child”, how many people does it take to turn an idea into reality?