If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse (PLSG) should take as a compliment recent developments at nearby West Virginia University (WVU). Over the past several years, WVU has been making investments in the health sciences through research- and innovation-centered activities at its Health Sciences Innovation Center on the Health Sciences Campus in Morgantown. More than 3,600 students are enrolled in the school’s health sciences programs, and health sciences-related research at the university totaled more than $63 million in 2017.
WVU also offers bootcamps for faculty members, clinicians and outside entrepreneurs who are interested in starting biotech companies.
“We look for strategic partners early in the development process,” said Erienne Olesh, the Center’s associate director. “By partnering with NIH to educate researchers on grant funding mechanisms, we’re increasing the number of potential partners.”
The Center has spawned eight companies to date, and some of them have hired employees. Another one re-located to San Diego and another, Modulation Therapeutics, began in Tampa and later moved to Morgantown. The company, which is developing therapies to treat multiple myeloma, was recruited to WVU and has received $8 million in small business innovation research (SBIR) funding from NIH to conduct research and pre-clinical trials.
To help maximize research and commercialization opportunities, the Center occupies shared workspace at Nova Place (formerly Allegheny Center Mall) on Pittsburgh’s North Side.
“Collaboration is important to our work, so we spend a bit of time in Pittsburgh,” Olesh said. “We recently recruited world-class clinicians from the region, so connections between WVU and Pittsburgh are strengthening all the time.”
As for whether the I-79 corridor can achieve the critical mass of Boston’s Life Sciences Corridor, Olesh is uncertain, but emphasized, “Growing connections and collaborations between Morgantown and Pittsburgh can help foster greater economic growth and resources for everyone.”