Program created to help researchers market their discoveries

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The Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences is getting $1.2 million to create a nationwide training program that will help animal researchers learn to transition research discoveries, such as vaccines or diagnostics, to the marketplace. The From Bench to Shop program also is expected to facilitate the federal government’s transition from the Plum Island Animal Disease Center to the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility.

The veterinary college and the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases, also based at Texas A&M, were awarded the three-year contract by the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate, the research and development arm of the department. The contract was officially awarded Sept. 25, 2015, and there will be 16 trainees.

The program targets graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and early-career faculty interested in understanding the business regulations, federal and international processes, and research requirements for taking basic or applied high-consequence, transboundary animal disease research through the difficult process of translation to commercial use, according to the program’s website. Trainees will earn a training certificate in scientific business development and management.

The Bench to Shop program lead team is composed of principal investigator Dr. Angela Arenas, assistant professor in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences; co-principal investigator Rosina C. Krecek, PhD, visiting professor in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology and interim assistant dean of one health; and co-principal investigator Heather Simmons, DVM, Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases education program manager. (Courtesy of Texas A&M CVMBS)

Selected trainees will first complete 50 hours of online training on their own, starting this December, then will come together for a three-week international experiential short course and a capstone project in summer 2017. Three additional trainees, likely Texas A&M dual-degree DVM-MBA, MD-MBA, or Masters in Business Economics-MBA students, will work in a different capacity than the 16 selected trainees, developing a long-term business plan for the program. All the trainees will work with a mentor at the Texas A&M Mays Business School.

“As a whole, this program will be vital to workforce development in the U.S.—particularly for the new NBAF,” said Dr. Gerald Parker, interim director of the Institute for Infectious Diseases, in a Texas A&M press release. “It will truly focus on soft skill sets and commercialization, teaching researchers how to take their product where it needs to go for widespread commercial adoption and success.”

The National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility is set to replace the Plum Island Animal Disease Center in 2022. In preparation, NBAF has created Training Transition Research projects that will transition the research programs from Plum Island to NBAF over this period. This transition includes development of next-generation scientists with experience in the planning and execution of research activities involving transboundary animal diseases in high and maximum containment. The Bench to Shop program is expected to cultivate this generation of scientists to further contribute to the DHS Science and Technology mission through innovation and research that contributes to the defense of U.S. agriculture.

Development of such a program requires a multidisciplinary partnership from multiple groups and organizations for trainees to understand the entire skill set required to take a research and development product to commercialization, according to the press release.

This program will be based at Texas A&M in College Station and involves partners that include Colorado State University, the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Kansas State University, and the Agricultural Research Council-Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute in South Africa as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Food and Drug Administration, and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Related JAVMA content:

NBAF under construction, due in 2022 (July 15, 2015)

New facility to advance study of foreign animal disease (Jan. 15, 2009)