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UPMC to Invest $1 Billion in Medical Enterprises

UPMC lab


14 Jan. 2020. UPMC, the medical center affiliated with University of Pittsburgh, plans to invest $1 billion in life science advances, with spin-off companies as part of its strategy. The investments will be made through UPMC Enterprises, the medical center’s business development division for new enterprises that commercialize discoveries in translational science and digital health.

The UPMC investments aim to encourage more and faster development of new drugs, medical devices, and diagnostics by providing more incentives for commercializing research discoveries that also offer financial returns to UPMC. “The common link among our investments,” says UPMC Enterprises executive vice-president Jeanne Cunicelli in a UPMC statement, “will be that each has a direct and powerful impact on how we care for patients, while generating a significant financial return.”

UPMC Enterprises offers a business structure for new companies seeking to commercialize their research, and technical assistance in product design, engineering, marketing, recruiting, analytics, operations, and health-related economics. In addition, UPMC Enterprises can arrange for angel and venture investment capital, as well as growth capital and partnerships or joint ventures for more established businesses. IPMC enterprises also supports digital health companies that provide technology solutions to the health care ecosystem and allow consumers greater access to health care information and services.

The total $1 billion investment through 2024 includes $200 million already committed for an immune transplant and therapy center announced in February 2018. That facility, developed with University of Pittsburgh, aims to boost research and development in immunology, focusing on transplantation, cancer, aging, and chronic diseases. UPMC and the university put the immune transplant and therapy center in an old Ford Motor Company factory and showroom, converted into research labs and offices for start-ups and industry partners.

UPMC points to five new spin-off enterprises in the past two years as evidence supporting its approach. Among the new companies are Generian that develops treatments for chronic conditions related to aging. One of the company’s founders is Toren Finkel, director of UPMC’s Aging Institute and the company’s chief scientist.

Another new business is BlueSphere Bio, developing personalized T-cell therapies that harness the immune system to treat cancer. The company is founded by Mark Shlomchik, chair of the immunology department at UPMC, and Warren Shlomchik, director of the university’s hematopoietic stem cell transplantation and cell therapy center.

“In a very short time,” says Steven Shapiro, UPMC’s executive vice-president, “UPMC Enterprises has backed a promising pipeline of companies and research that could radically change the way we treat some of the world’s most devastating diseases.” Shapiro adds, “Our scientists at Pitt, along with others globally who will enrich their efforts, are seeing the results of their research moved out of the lab and into the commercial realm at a speed and cost that previously wasn’t possible in the academic environment.”

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