BioWorld International Correspondent
LONDON - The UK government this month changed the rules governing intellectual property owned by the National Health Service (NHS), making it easier for hospitals to commercialize the £400 million (US$567 million) of research they carry out each year.
The rule change will allow hospitals to retain an equity stake in companies they spin out. The aim is to encourage public/private partnerships to promote the effective exploitation and management of IP.
"This will make a difference because any form of commercialization that involves money changing hands is difficult for the NHS," Francesca Crawford, chief operating officer of MMI Group plc, a bioscience technology management company, told BioWorld International. MMI has formed the Bio-Starter Initiative in partnership with two other companies to carry out audits of NHS research and provide the resources to commercialize suitable technology.
MMI's partners in the Bio-Starter Initiative are Covance Early Development Services, which will provide commercial due diligence, market assessment and business strategy advice, and Mills and Reeve, a law firm that is one of the largest providers of legal services to the NHS.
To date MMI has carried out more than 20 audits for major NHS hospitals, and screened nearly 5,000 bioscience technologies. "We have a number of opportunities that are all at a very early stage," Crawford said. "We will make a hard-headed assessment of what is needed to add value.
"The change in rules gives access to a new and significant pool of research. By putting together the Bio-Starter Initiative we can demonstrate to the NHS that we can pull in all the services required to capitalize on this research."
The move puts hospitals on the same footing as universities in spinning out research. "At the moment the management of IP from hospital-funded research is all ad hoc," Crawford said. "Some are better than others, and have technology transfer arms, but lots of others don't have any arrangements. This change in rules will see more companies spinning out based on NHS research in the same way as they spin out of universities."