Feb. 9, 2000 EDITOR'S NOTE: For additional information, contact Carolyn Dennis-Phillips (email@example.com) at the New Jersey Center for Biomaterials, (732) 445-0488 or Gordon Calundann (firstname.lastname@example.org) at Axiva U.S., (908) 508-1466.
NEW BRUNSWICK/PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Axiva U.S., Inc. (formerly known as Aventis Research & Technologies) has presented a check for $425,000 to the New Jersey Center for Biomaterials (CBM), a consortium based at Rutgers. The funding will support a unique 14-month research partnership for the development of a versatile new form of starch.
Axiva U.S., Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Axiva GmbH, a member of the Hoechst Group, holds patents for the production of this starch and for a variety of innovative uses of the new material. Axiva GmbH is expected to become part of Celanese AG in the first quarter of the year 2000. While Axiva anticipates uses for this material as a food ingredient, the center plans to explore further applications in medical implants, cosmetics and engineering materials, and to refine the biotechnology process used in its production.
Under a novel arrangement with Axiva U.S., the center will serve as a "virtual research organization" for the company, combining the scientific talents of its researchers, the business skills of its industrial partner and the broad intellectual assets of the university. CBM is assembling and managing an interdisciplinary Rutgers team from a number of departments and units that will work closely with Axiva scientists.
"The virtual research organization reflects a new paradigm in industrial collaboration that could become a model for other interactions throughout the university," said Joachim Kohn, director of the Center for Biomaterials. "Also unusual here is that Rutgers is actually assigning all patents, all the intellectual property coming out of this team to Axiva, and in return the company will share with us the downstream benefits derived from that interaction. Whenever there is a profit, we will share in it."
Consistent with a series of divestitures and reorganizations within the Hoechst and Celanese organizations, Axiva is focusing its resources on manufacturing and has pursued the outsourcing of its research activities.
"Axiva owns a number of technologies that need to be brought forward, and that is the case here," said Gordon Calundann, spokesman for Axiva U.S. "We selected Rutgers over all other U.S. universities for this program because of the way in which the separate disciplines have been brought together in the center and our observations of their past project management expertise. I think, more important than the profits we hope to share, is the teamwork atmosphere our arrangement can create. Because of this unique agreement, we see this as being in business together."
Calundann and Kohn each noted that the negotiations carried out through Rutgers' Office of Corporate Liaison and Technology Transfer were characterized by a flexible institutional framework and a receptivity to this innovative model. These sentiments were echoed by Joseph J. Seneca, university vice president for academic affairs at Rutgers.
"A flexible institutional structure gave us the ability to respond to Axiva in a timely and new way and enabled us to realize the significant benefits of this interaction," said Seneca. "Flexibility is another word for being resourceful and being open to ideas. The type of arrangement we have here resonates very well with our faculty and with Axiva. The university's strategic plan both supports and is supported by this model of collaborative, flexible, interdisciplinary teamwork between the university and industry."
Rutgers participants in the initial virtual research organization team include researchers from the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine, the Waksman Institute of Microbiology, the department of chemical and biochemical engineering in the School of Engineering, and the departments of molecular biology and biochemistry, and chemistry in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. In addition, the Medical Device Concept Laboratory of the New Jersey Institute of Technology is participating. In the future, additional members may be added to the team, depending on the scientific needs of the project.
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